May 18 2011

Hawking on Heaven

A recent quote from physicist Stephen Hawking is causing a bit of a stir – actually, not much of one when you think about it. But those who take an interest in such things are, well, interested.

In an interview with the Guardian he is quoted as saying:

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

This is an elegant statement from a respected scientist. Hawking personalizes his view by putting it in the context of his own life. To him the prospect of death is an old friend. He faces his own mortality with acceptance. But at the same time he affirms his love for life – life is possibility and he wishes to make the most out of his own brief existence, which he also hopes is not that brief.

This is a good statement of philosophical materialism – we are material beings living in a material world (much like Madonna). The implication is that there is no immaterial afterlife.

While referring to such beliefs as a “fairy story” may come off as dismissive, it is clear that Hawking is stating his own personal opinion. He says, “I regard.” He is not claiming to have a logical argument that disproves God or an afterlife. He is not offering proof of the materialist paradigm. He is simply choosing to take a scientific view of reality.

If you read the rest of the short interview it is clear that Hawking takes the scientific approach to all such questions. When asked about whether our existence is all down to good luck, he says:

Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.

In other words – Hawking is operating unapologetically, and transparently, in the scientific paradigm. He finds that to be the most useful way to approach the big questions of existence.

Everyone certainly has the right to promote their own world-view, and Hawking has earned a place in the public arena and therefore his views get more attention than the average person. However, what often happens is that those who publicly express unpopular views are challenged, usually couched as the claim that it was somehow wrong or irresponsible for them to do so. This is often nonsense, and the same people complaining would likely not be complaining if views with which they agreed were being expressed.

Already there is an excellent example of this, from fellow physicist Scott M. Tyson.

“I think that people in general believe that scientists don’t believe in God, and that’s just not true,” said Tyson, author of The Unobservable Universe: A Paradox-Free Framework for Understanding the Universe (www.theunobservableuniverse.com). “History is filled with scientists who were also men of faith, from Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton to Einstein. Now, I do also believe that there are other scientists who would like to prove that God doesn’t exist. These scientists might want to rain on everyone else’s parades with respect to God really, really badly. The problem is that one of the limitations of science is that science simply cannot prove the non-existence of objects and phenomena over the full spectrum of possibilities. So, while scientists may be able to prove in a scientific framework that there is no life after death, they cannot, nor should they even attempt to, prove it in a theological framework, which is the territory of faith. To do so creates unnecessary divisiveness that can serve no beneficial purpose. And that’s the line Dr. Hawking crossed – he essentially discounted the idea in both frameworks, and nothing good could come of that.”

I suspect that Tyson is using this as an opportunity for self-promotion (hence the gratuitous reference to his own book) – but I’m OK with that. I won’t begrudge someone a little bit of judicious self-promotion. What concerns me is the shoddy logic. Let’s break down the logical fallacies.

Hawking never claimed that scientists in general do not believe in God, or that all scientists do not believe in God, so counter examples are irrelevant. Also, the Einstein reference is dubious, and the best evidence we have indicates that Einstein did not believe in a literal deity. Hawking was just giving his view.

For the record, surveys vary but according to one survey about one-third of scientists (depending on discipline) do not believe in God, which is higher than the general population. Another survey of “top” scientists found that disbelief in a personal God or immortality was greater than 90%.

Tyson then implies that Hawking is trying to prove that God does not exist, which is simply not true. Nothing Hawking said can be interpreted as an attempt to prove the non-existence of God. Tyson then implies that some scientists are motivated to “rain on everyone else’s parade.” This is an ad hominem logical fallacy – motives are irrelevant. But also, he is just assuming negative motives without justification.

Tyson then makes his one semi-legitimate point – that science cannot disprove a non-scientific hypothesis – one that is inherently unfalsifiable, which places it outside the realm of science. (I am paraphrasing and perhaps giving Tyson more credit than he deserves.) I agree with this.

But then he spoils his semi-good point with more nonsense by saying “prove it in a theological framework.” First – Hawking makes no attempt to argue theology (and thus Tyson’s point is a strawman). He is clearly speaking within the framework of science, and within that framework there is no evidence for God or an afterlife and so both hypotheses can be rejected.

Further – within the “theological framework” (which is very unclear and not well-demarcated), there is no such thing as “proof”. Theology is not about evidence and proof. The very notion of “theological proof” is an oxymoron. I see no evidence that Hawking is making this error – this is a fallacy introduced by Tyson himself.

Therefore, Hawking has not crossed any line, but Tyson has by falsely accusing Hawking of doing so. It is Tyson who is confusing the framework of science with the framework of theology, and is creating divisiveness where none need exist.

Scientists should be free to express their opinions about the nature of reality from a scientific point of view, and even to advocate for the scientific view itself. That is all Hawking is doing, and I congratulate him for doing so. Tyson is grossly confusing the issue in order to make false criticisms of Hawking.

I find this to be a common pattern. The defenders of science mostly (of course there are exceptions) are interested in clarifying the extent and limits of science – carefully delineating its arena. Defenders of theology are the ones who are frequently blurring the lines and making a philosophical mess of things. Tyson has simply provided yet another example of this.

Hawking has clearly become more outspoken, which is not uncommon when public thinkers reach this stage of their lives. Carl Sagan commented that he suspected The Demon Haunted World was going to be his last great work, and so that motivated him to make this book as powerful as possible. Hawking seems to be following in Sagan’s footsteps, and that’s a good thing.

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274 responses so far

274 Responses to “Hawking on Heaven”

  1. tmac57on 18 May 2011 at 10:45 am

    I suspect a lot of Christian apologists miss the ‘good old days’ when non-believers kept their mouths shut for fear of being ostracized or even killed.How dare these public figures come out and openly defy cultural convention!The game is to put enough peer pressure and opprobrium on those who have the temerity to speak their minds,so that others will think twice before they follow suit.Well, those days are over,and the genie is out of the bottle.Those among us who are religious better get use to hearing people like Hawking,and acknowledge that people have the right to their beliefs,and there is nothing that they can do about that.

  2. Karl Withakayon 18 May 2011 at 12:15 pm

    It’s impressive when someone uses non-overlapping magesteria in the process of overlapping magesteria.

    It seems more often than not that non-overlapping magesteria is really used as a one way filter rather than a true divide. Keep science out of my religion, but I can insert my religion into science whenever I want.

  3. locutusbrgon 18 May 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I had no problem with his OPINION until the last two lines. Then he went off the rails.

  4. devtheronon 18 May 2011 at 12:42 pm

    http://devtheron.blogspot.com/2011/04/truth-to-everything.html

    A refreshing approach! Also read comments:)

    Why would mimes want us to be aware of God, if another mime want us not to believe that we did not acknowledge that God exist? Can one mime undo another? Once ones mind is aware, it cannot be unaware:)

  5. eeanon 18 May 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Counting Einstein to be amongst the god-fearing is just a lie. There’s plenty of renowned scientists who were and are religious, I don’t know why they have to keep digging up his corpse and doing a Weekends at Bernies, Synagogue edition.

  6. DCTyleron 18 May 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I am not a big fan of NOMA and feel it is just a way of being polite to people of “Faith”. It gives special respect where none has been earned.

    If people of “faith” had a decent product it should sell itself, it should not have to depend on intellectual dishonesty. They refuse to make honest arguments but still reserve the right not to be offended. Any rational person of any belief should find this attitude offensive for good reason.

  7. neverknowon 18 May 2011 at 1:49 pm

    “He is not offering proof of the materialist paradigm. He is simply choosing to take a scientific view of reality.”

    Materialist philosophy does not equal science. Science has already discovered many “non-material” things and might discover many more. Hawking is not being scientific, he is being a materialist, and his belief is based on faith not scientific evidence.

    If the materialist philosophy had truly been demonstrated by science, we would all be materialists now.

  8. tmac57on 18 May 2011 at 2:02 pm

    @eean-

    I don’t know why they have to keep digging up his corpse and doing a Weekends at Bernies, Synagogue edition.

    I got a good laugh from this (I don’t do LOL) :)

  9. MattD1980on 18 May 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Gotta love Hawking’s! but : “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” is more than his own opinion, he’s stating something that he believes is a fact, which I agree with. I do think that this statement was however arrogant and dismissive which I’m also fine with, unfortunately, for believers.

  10. SARAon 18 May 2011 at 3:10 pm

    The entire debate of God vs No God is a pointless one. It wastes valuable energy and time, and in the end distracts everyone from getting on with important things.

    Whenever non-believers respond to the baiting questions of the believer, we are dragged into quagmire. Believers are unlikely to be convinced. There is no point in trying.

    Focus on the issues – keeping religion out of public policy and public education, keeping evidence based medicine and science in focus.

    Every time I see a scientist stirring up this tempest in a teapot, I am disappointed. It does nothing to promote the real change. They argue that until religion is eradicated we will never realize our goals of getting religion out of public policy. There is no evidence that that is true. In fact in the last 300 years there has been a steady removal of religion from government and while its certainly not gone, its improving.

    On the other hand, I see efforts to change believers into non-believers as singularly fruitless and if anything strengthen the believer’s resolve and solidarity.

  11. MattD1980on 18 May 2011 at 3:18 pm

    @Sara I think you are being a tad cynical, there’s plenty of people that were very into religion that eventually decided it wasn’t for them because of shocking statements or self realization based on inspirational figures. Why couldn’t atheist promote the fact that maybe there is no god? Not by imposing a view but by “forcing” a person to question their current beliefs?

    I think that this is what Hawking is doing. I do however question his technique to achieve this said goal :-) .

  12. Karl Withakayon 18 May 2011 at 4:00 pm

    “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

    KRYTEN: “He’s an android. His brain could not handle the concept of there being no silicon heaven.”
    LISTER: “So how come yours can?”
    KRYTEN: “Because I knew something he didn’t.”
    LISTER: “What?”
    KRYTEN: “I knew that I was lying. Seriously, sir. ‘No silicon heaven’? Where would all of the calculators go?”

  13. Karl Withakayon 18 May 2011 at 4:12 pm

    neverknow

    “Science has already discovered many “non-material” things and might discover many more.”

    Which things would those be? Perhaps you’re unaware that materialism has developed beyond the concept of actual physical matter. I’m not aware that Science has discovered anything not compatible with materialism.

    “Hawking is not being scientific, he is being a materialist, and his belief is based on faith not scientific evidence.”

    Hawking is basing his materialism on all available scientific evidence and scientific observations of the universe.

    “If the materialist philosophy had truly been demonstrated by science, we would all be materialists now.”

    Just like we’re all believers in a non-flat Earth, the reality of the Holocaust, the Moon landing, anthropogenic global warming, the safety of vaccination, and the fact that HIV causes AIDS?

  14. SARAon 18 May 2011 at 4:41 pm

    # MattD1980
    I’m not cynical, I’m practical. I don’t really care what people believe, I care whether their beliefs impinge on societal welfare and on the personal freedom of anyone.

    Converting people to atheism is not going to change anything in the short run. It would take far to long to convert most of the existing fundamentalist population, if its even a likely proposition. Focusing on protecting existing legal rights and teaching people to think critically are far more practical activities.

    As to whether people are converted by startling statements, I find no studies that show any conversion to atheism statistics related to method of conversion. If you have some, I would love to see them.

    I see no evidence that the debate on God is of any value to the issues, but if you have some, please let me know.

  15. neverknowon 18 May 2011 at 5:11 pm

    “teaching people to think critically”

    You’re assuming that thinking critically leads to atheism, but in my opinion it’s just as likely to lead away from atheism. It might tend to poke some holes in literalist bliblical theism though.

  16. mondon 18 May 2011 at 6:05 pm

    sara said

    ” I don’t really care what people believe, I care whether their beliefs impinge on societal welfare and on the personal freedom of anyone.”

    This sentence is a total contradiction.

    If I believe “sara’s personal freedom should be impinged” and my belief leads me to take action then do you care what I believe or do you not?

  17. nybgruson 18 May 2011 at 6:48 pm

    and yet in America, the religious right is fiercely pushing back scientific thought and progress and attempting to “teach the controversy” and passing laws that protect science teachers who attempt to teach creationism as a valid science and equal counter theory to evolution.

    Furthermore, you cannot “convert to atheism” that is in itself an oxymoron. You cannot “convert to a-fairyism” – atheism is not a religion, it is not a belief framework, it is not a codified moral framework, worldview, etc. It is, in its standalone form, simply the disbelief in and gods, usually due to a lack of evidence. In that limited scope, then yes, critical thinking should and would always lead one away from belief in the god of religions – there is simply not evidence for it and sufficient internal contradications and problems with the established theologies to be reasonably conclusive that the specific god in question does not exist (i.e. the Abrahamic god, or the Greek gods, etc). Whilst this does not preclude the possibility of some other god or gods, parsimony and further critical thinking would lead one to think the likelihood quite low, and scientific understanding would lead one to require evidence for a belief in said “other” god(s). Since there is no such evidence, the default position should be an atheistic one. What one does from there is entirely up to the individual; humanism is a moral option with some defined parameters for example. But to attempt to extrapolate a world view or ethose of someone simply based on the fact that they are not convinced as to the presence of a supernatural deity of any kind is a fool’s errand. Of course the opposite is less true – if someone identifies as a devout Catholic, certain assumptions of their moral framework and worldview are justified. However, in today’s day and age, that does not hold quite as true – there are individuals who consider themselves Catholic and yet are also pro-choice, for example. To me, that is a sign that at least on some level (however partial or subconscious) people are beginning to understand that theological “truth” is not a rigorous and accurate framework and managing to use empirical scientific “materialism” to inform their morality and worldview.

    And yes, just like any other social or civl movement, having people who say that atheism is OK and giving good argument for its validity is important. In the past, people like Hawking would have been burned at the stake for hearesy. Now there is social pressure to shut him up. Think about it this way – I have a few gay friends and asked them “Which would make you more uncomfortable and worried: telling someone (anyone, boss, stranger, colleague) that you are gay or that you are an atheist?” What do you imagine that answer to be?

    Look at the hate and bigotry against atheists in the popular media – the Pope blaming the holocaust on atheism, Fox News telling atheists they “need to shut up,” families in small southern town literally being run out of town because they don’t believe in a god, high school students being told they are going to hell and being intimidated and experiencing violence at the hands of theists. Having a voice out there that lets these people know there is support, there are others like them, and that it is wrong for them to have to experience these things is vital.

    So in sum, for those of you that think there is no point to the debate, that theism is not affecting your life in any way so people can believe what they want (I haven’t even mentioned Islam), and that critical thinking can just as easily lead you “away from atheism” (where might that be??), I suggest you do some reading on the topic and see just what is happening in American schools and towns, look at the special treatment afforded to theists (tax breaks, etc), and think about the worldwide influence of theism.

  18. MattD1980on 18 May 2011 at 7:11 pm

    @Sara

    I’m not saying we should convert everyone or anyone, to quote myself “Why couldn’t atheist promote the fact that maybe there is no god?” it’s about planting a seed that may grow into larger realizations and trying to bring people to critical thinking.

    As of statistical proof of my claims, you can scratch that as I have none. I do know from _personal experiences_ that great minds and people I admire have had a profound impact on my life and I don’t see why it couldn’t have a “conversion” effect for someone. However, I can’t prove this, it’s just my personal opinion.

    Great comments so far, very interesting to read everyone :)

    Cheers!

  19. aeauoooon 18 May 2011 at 7:44 pm

    “While referring to such beliefs as a “fairy story” may come off as dismissive…”

    …or pejorative.

    “For the record, surveys vary but according to one survey about one-third of scientists (depending on discipline) do not believe in God, which is higher than the general population.”

    Assuming mutual exclusivity, that means that two-thirds of scientists do believe in God.

    159 “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth’ (Dei Filius 4; DS 3017). Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.”

    2293 “Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all.”

    - Catechism of the Catholic Church

  20. Sastraon 18 May 2011 at 9:20 pm

    SARA wrote:

    Every time I see a scientist stirring up this tempest in a teapot, I am disappointed. It does nothing to promote the real change. They argue that until religion is eradicated we will never realize our goals of getting religion out of public policy.

    The goal is not to eradicate religion, but to loosen its grip. I don’t think this can be accomplished unless atheism comes to be seen as a reasonable option and viable position. And I don’t think that can happen unless the serious flaws with both faith as a method and supernaturalism as a conclusion are carefully, honestly, and vigorously pointed out.

    “It’s fine to believe that your faith depicts the true nature of reality — but keep it out of public policy.” If they really think their faith beliefs are true, then why should they keep them out of public policy? It’s ultimately a mixed message.

  21. BillyJoe7on 19 May 2011 at 12:33 am

    It’s the old accommodationalist debate.

    For some reason, it’s the non-accommodationalists who have to prove their method works whilst the accommodationalists can just continue on accommodating, no proof required.

    And why is it automatically assumed that Hawking and others like Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Stenger are always trying to “convert” believers as opposed to just presenting their view.

    And why do ALL atheist have to be gentle towards religion and religionists. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

    And, in any case, it’s not always about converting the believer but about presenting fence-sitters and young adults with alternative world views to consider.

    If you think the accommodationalists aren’e stifling that effort you’ve got more rocks than common sense. Do you think women and blacks achieved equality by being nice towards males and whites all the time? Or did it require some women and some blacks to get un-nice sometimes?

  22. eiskrystalon 19 May 2011 at 4:04 am

    Theology is not about evidence and proof.

    Now there’s an understatement :)

  23. Dawson 19 May 2011 at 4:16 am

    Why do those two studies have such big discrepancies on the beliefs of scientists? Is one methodologically flawed vs the other?

  24. davidsmithon 19 May 2011 at 4:55 am

    “He is not offering proof of the materialist paradigm. He is simply choosing to take a scientific view of reality.”

    You seem to be equating materialism with science. Hawking is making statements based on his scientific and philosophical views of reality. As suggested by some of his statements, he is choosing to take a scientific approach to certain questions. However, science does not exclusively require a materialist framework and he also makes a statement that affirms his philosophical view on the nature of mind and consciousness. So Hawkings’ piece is not all about science.

  25. BillyJoe7on 19 May 2011 at 6:52 am

    davidsmith,

    “science does not exclusively require a materialist framework ”

    Science looks for naturalistic explanations for observed phenomena. As such, its underlying philosophy is materialism.

  26. SteveAon 19 May 2011 at 9:28 am

    Neverknow

    Any chance of you answering Karl Withakay’s question?

    ‘“Science has already discovered many “non-material” things and might discover many more.”

    Which things would those be?’

  27. neverknowon 19 May 2011 at 9:46 am

    “Science looks for naturalistic explanations for observed phenomena. As such, its underlying philosophy is materialism.”

    That is playing with words. If science discovers something, you call it “material,” so it supports the materialist philosophy.

    “Matter” used to be the word used to describe anything made out of indivisible particles, or atoms. But now we really have no agreed-on definition of the word “matter.” Contemporary physics includes many concepts that really cannot be considered “matter.” And we have no reason to think that all substances and energies have been discovered. In fact, we would be very narrow minded if we tried to claim that. Our science has barely begun to understand nature, in my opinion and in the opinion of many other scientists.

    What substances and energies might exist that are beyond our physical senses and our instruments? No one can say, and no one can predict what will be discovered. Therefore “materialism,” or “naturalism” as it’s often called now, really has no definition.

  28. Mike12on 19 May 2011 at 10:03 am

    @BillyJoe7

    “Science looks for naturalistic explanations for observed phenomena. As such, its underlying philosophy is materialism.”

    No. Materialism is a metaphysical claim unrelated to science. Science is the methodological search for explanations for natural phenomena. Most of the major progress in science has invoked explanations that are not materialist. The uncanny effectiveness of mathematics to describe nature is inherently the invocation of non-material entities (i.e. mathematical concepts) to predict changes in nature. Much of cosmology invokes immaterial entities (singularities) to model the origin of the universe, which by definition emerged from a non-material substrate. Quantum mechanics is full of bizarre immaterial concepts (quantum entanglement, etc) that are indispensible to an understanding of the subatomic world.

    Science is a methodology for studying nature, and scientists invoke all sorts of models- materialist and non-materialist- to predict natural phenomena.

    Sorry, atheists. You’re going to have to make your arguments for atheism based on logic and reason, using the metaphysical concepts proper to a metaphysical claim, without hijacking and misrepresenting real science, which is unrelated to materialism.

  29. Mike12on 19 May 2011 at 10:15 am

    @Steve Novella,

    “[Hawking] is not offering proof of the materialist paradigm. He is simply choosing to take a scientific view of reality.”

    Your first sentence is right. Hawking is certainly not offering “proof” for the materialist paradigm. Hawking has shown no evidence of philosophical competence at all. His public assertions about metaphysics are devoid of anything resembling a coherent logical metaphysical argument.

    Your second sentence couldn’t be more wrong. Materialism isn’t a “scientific view of reality”. It’s a materialist view of reality. It has nothing to do with science, which is a method for studing nature that incorporates a spectrum of immaterial and material concepts. The application of sophisticated mathematical concepts, which are inherently immaterial, to physics is perhaps the pinnacle of science. For example, the use of complex analysis (the calculus of complex numbers) is essential to much of relativity and quantum mechanics. In what way is the square root of -1 “material”?

    Materialism is a metaphysical claim. It is rarely defined with any consistency by it’s proponents (probably because it’s such gibberish that it can’t be defined consistently without revealing its absurdity), and in my view is hardly to be taken seriously as metaphysics.

    And real science has nothing to do with materialist metaphysics, which is fortunate for science. Stop trying to shove your atheism in the back door by equating it with science. If you want to make a coherent argument for the truth of atheism, you’ll have to make coherent logical arguments.

    I’d be interested to see how you can argue that anything is “true” using materialist precepts. In what way is “truth” a material thing?

  30. eeanon 19 May 2011 at 11:48 am

    @neverknow: I think we can say definitively that we will never discover things beyond our physical sense and instruments.

  31. Steven Novellaon 19 May 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Mike – you are incorrect. The methods of science are dependent upon methodological naturalism. You are using the term “material” too narrowly. In terms of philosophy it means part of the physical universe, which includes energy and things that are not necessarily solid. It excludes anything supernatural, spiritual, or outside of the cause and effects laws of the universe.

    Hawking is simply saying that he is a philosophical naturalist – that the philosophy of science is not just his method of understanding the universe, he thinks that’s how the universe actually is.

    Nothing in his statement implies philosophical naivete.

    You are also making many false assumptions about my position. I am not even an atheist in the way that you mean. I am a philosophical agnostic. I do not equate atheism with science. Again – science is methodological naturalism, atheism takes it one step further and is philosophical naturalism.

    Search on this site for related posts and you will find long discussions of this.

  32. neverknowon 19 May 2011 at 12:59 pm

    “I think we can say definitively that we will never discover things beyond our physical sense and instruments.”

    We might discover things beyond the instruments that we currently have. It is extremely unlikely that our current instruments will turn out to be the last ever invented.

  33. eeanon 19 May 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Heh, according to Mike12 a strict materialist couldn’t do calculus. Hawking’s contributions to physics are all the more impressive, now that I know he can’t do math.

  34. Mike12on 19 May 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Steven,

    “You are using the term “material” too narrowly.”

    Materialists never define ‘materialism’ with sufficient precision to know just what it is. The reason is just what you have done: when the logical absurdity of materialism is pointed out, the materialist simply asserts that that is not what he meant by the word. Neat way to avoid intellectual accountability.

    “The methods of science are dependent upon methodological naturalism.”

    What do you mean by “methodological naturalism” ? If you mean that science only invokes naturalistic causes (i.e. causes that are part of the universe), that’s not true, even in the most fundamental science- cosmology. The origin of the universe is by definition not a ‘naturalistic cause’, because ‘origin’ means beginning, and it’s nonsense to assert that the universe pre-existed itself in order to cause itself. Creation of the universe ex-nilhio presupposes extra-natural causation. And if you assert that the universe began without cause, then you are denying the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and we can then assert that anything began without cause. Why invoke evolution, when you can just assert that living things just came into existence as they are uncaused. It’s a kind of atheist creationism.

    Many philosophers have argued that mathematical concepts themselves can’t coherently be understood as part of the physical universe. In what way is Euler’s Identity a part of the physical universe? What is physical about imaginary numbers?

    What I said earlier about the illogic of “materialism” applies as well to “physicalism”. How are abstract ideas a part of the physical universe? If you argue that they are a part of the physical universe because they exist in the mind of human beings who are part of the physical universe, I reply that God exists in the mind of human beings. Does that prove that He exists?

    I believe that science is methodologically naturalistic in the sense that it is restricted to the study of natural effects, not the study of natural causes. MN invokes natural processes to explain these effects, but the natural processes can have natural or supernatural causes. For example, science studies the motion of planets, which are governed by mathematical laws. Science says nothing about the origin of these laws (natural or supernatural). Science makes no assertions about whether or not God wrote the book of nature, so to speak.

    That given, then Hawking’s blather about science providing a basis for atheist belief is gibberish. Science does not adjudicate the existence/non-existence of extra-natural causation.

    “[Methodological naturalism] includes energy and things that are not necessarily solid. It excludes anything supernatural, spiritual, or outside of the cause and effects laws of the universe.”

    Methodological naturalism excludes investigation of extra-natural stuff, but it most emphatically does not preclude investigation of natural effects that may be caused by extra-natural agency. Metholological naturalism is blind to extra-natural agency, and cannot be used to ground either atheism or theism.

    “Hawking is simply saying that he is a philosophical naturalist – that the philosophy of science is not just his method of understanding the universe, he thinks that’s how the universe actually is. ”

    He does think that, but nothing he has written in any way substantiates his metaphysical claims. The argument that science (methodological naturalism) provides evidence for atheism (philosophical naturalism) is a rudimentary logical error. Science can’t (by definition) address extra-natural issues.

    “Nothing in his statement implies philosophical naivete.’

    Everything he has written on the matter demonstrates philosophical naivete. He has not made a single credible metaphysical argument. Not one.

    Furthermore, he (intentionally) leaves the impression that his sophomoric assertions that atheism is supported by science is an intellectually respectable opinion. And bloggers sympathetic to his metaphysics provide cover for him, and don’t call him out on it.

    That’s dishonest.

  35. nybgruson 19 May 2011 at 5:30 pm

    mike: if anyone is dishonest here, it is you. Only, I think you don’t realize because you are smugly content in your hafultin blather. Just because you can string big words into long sentences that are grammatically correct doesn’t mean your arguments are sound.

    Materialism is a metaphysical claim unrelated to science

    Considering that the definition of materialism is “the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things , including abstract concepts such as being , knowing, identity, time , and space.
    abstract theory with no basis in reality” from the Oxford dictionary, it is quite oxymoronic to then claim that materialism is the subject of metaphysics. You could be arguing it from a Kantian perspective, in that “objects of experience constitute the only reality” but considering that your thesis is that there are “extra-natural” and non-material things (why not use the accepted term of supernatural? I have a hypothesis…) I can’t imagine that is the sense in which you invoke metaphysics. So already, you’re off to a bad start.

    The application of sophisticated mathematical concepts, which are inherently immaterial, to physics is perhaps the pinnacle of science.

    As Dr. Novella pointed out, your definition is much too narrow and arbitrarily constructed to fit your needs. Additionally, the example your provide does not further your point. Simply becasue abstract concepts are used, does not make the subject immaterial. Physics describes the material and physical world. We use abstract mathematics as a means to describe tangible and measurable entities and effects. The force of a vacuum is “immaterial” yet it is nicely explained in a materialistic manner. Simply because you cannot see the force in question doesn’t mean it isn’t there since can observe its effect on material things. Thus, materialism is not only the actual observable objects, but also includes the observable effects on such objects. Since science can, by definition, only deal with that which is observable, then it is material even if what it is observing is an non-physical/tangible force or concept. When something does not in any way, shape, or form exert an observable effect on a tangible, material entity then it leaves the realm of science and becomes metaphysics.

    What Hawking (and others here) are saying is that everything that exists as a tangible object, and all the possible forces and measurable effects on said objects, and all the concepts used to describe said forces, effects, and outcomes is the definition of “material” since it is precisely those things which fall into the realm of science. If something has no measurable or observable effect on any object in the universe, then it is supernatural, belongs in metaphysics, and for all intents and purposes does not exist. Science can be refined, new experiments done, our theoretical models may predict it, but until it is observed it is not material and does not yet exist. The Higgs boson is an example of such an idea. It is predicted by some abstract models. The search is on to find and detect the Higgs boson, otherwise, the abstract model remains simply a hypothesis. As we gather material data we can reinforce our theories (or be forced to scrap them). And what do we call a scrapped theory? History.

    Hence your claim that

    Quantum mechanics is full of bizarre immaterial concepts (quantum entanglement, etc) that are indispensible to an understanding of the subatomic world.

    is correct but completely pointless to the discussion. The only reason we know of quantum entanglement is because of the observable effect it has on tangible objects in the universe. The theories predicted quantum entanglement, but (rightfully so) no one believed the theories to be valid until quantum entanglement was actually observed in a tangible physical process. So we still have yet to leave materialism.

    Your further inanities such as “what is physical about an imaginary number” fall into exactly this misunderstanding you have of science and physicalism.

    Stop trying to shove your atheism in the back door by equating it with science.

    Nobody here, not even Hawking, has done this. This is a straw man and I’ll deal with it in a little bit.

    Materialists never define ‘materialism’…

    I have now defined what is material above. Materialism is the philosophical approach that states there is nothing more to the universe than what is material. Our abstractions and multiple theories as to what is material is our attempt to scientifically define and understand what is actually material and what is not.

    Now that I have defined it, stop conflating “material” with “materialism.”

    If you mean that science only invokes naturalistic causes (i.e. causes that are part of the universe), that’s not true, even in the most fundamental science- cosmology

    Now we get into the meat of your argument here, so lets dissect it to demonstrate how incredibly false a statement that is.

    The origin of the universe is by definition not a ‘naturalistic cause’, because ‘origin’ means beginning, and it’s nonsense to assert that the universe pre-existed itself in order to cause itself.

    It is nonsense to assert what you are saying, which is why no one has asserted that but you. Your rhetorical tactics are superficially sophisticated but lack true depth. There is no argument as to whether “origin” means “beginning” so that is a pointless distractor. Neither origin nor beginning necessitates “cause” and your usage therein smacks of an attempt at using the Kalam argument for the existence of god. Your invokation of the “universe pre-exist[ing] in order to cause itself” is begging the question of first cause, since nobody here has broached that topic.

    And still, you fall flat, since the origin of the universe is still in question. Therefore whether it falls into a material or “extra-natural” realm as you like to call it is, as of yet, an unanswered question. Science simply says it does not yet know. Materialism takes the ethos of science (observation of material objects) and states two important things: 1) since everything else known is material and observable, then the origin of the universe would also be so; and 2) once something is observed it becomes part of the material universe.

    Once again, we can relate that to quantum mechanics – wave/particle duality is accepted is a description of the material world since it is observed. Our paradigm was updated to include that in our understanding and description of the universe.

    Creation of the universe ex-nilhio presupposes extra-natural causation.

    An second attempt at the Kalam argument. Nothing interesting here. Just as prior to an understanding of quantum mechanics, we could have said “The faster than light communication of information between two particles pre-supposes extra-natural causation” so can you make such an empty claim. If we do find scientific evidence for universum ex nihilo then, by definition, that becomes natural, not evidence for extra-natural. Of course, it is almost certain we would never have direct evidence for the origin of the universe, thus we rely on theories. Theories attempt to explain the current universe and then extrapolate backwards. The more empirical evidence exists to support a theory, the more confident we can be that it accurately extrapolates the past – but we can never be 100% certain.

    And if you assert that the universe began without cause, then you are denying the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and we can then assert that anything began without cause.

    The principle of sufficient reason is a metaphysical concept that may or may not apply – but it doesn’t have to apply. Just as theism would invoke a deity that needed no first cause nor any need of the principle of sufficient reason, then it is reasonable for material atheism to say such principle do not apply to the origin of the universe, eschewing the exrta step of a deity. That in no way needs to reflect on the remainder of the universe and your assertion that we must either accept the PoSR as you state it or else anything else in the universe can happen willy nilly is further begging the question.

    That given, then Hawking’s blather about science providing a basis for atheist belief is gibberish.</blockquote?

    And now I'd reckon your true biases have shone through. Atheism is not a belief. It is the absence of belief. It describes a default state prior to encountering evidence. Science cannot prove a negative, so the very notion that “science provides a basis for atheist belief” belies your inherent agenda, ideology, and patent misunderstanding of atheism and what science is. Science can (and has) neatly disproven specific gods. It cannot be used as evidence for a total lack of any gods. Insofar as science is concerned one can only be agnostic towards god – atheism is an extra step requiring the invokation of Occam’s razor (aka the principle of parsimony). Agnostics, such as Dr. Novella apparently, are content to say there is no current understanding of god that is consistent with the science. Atheists then say that since this is the case, the most parsimonious and likely reality is that there aren’t any gods, not just that the ones we have described so far are false. It is a likelihood gambit – no positive evidence for a god coupled with no process as of yet requiring the existence of god to explain it equals such a low probability of a god we are content to write of the concept entirely…. unless empirical evidence (materialism) proves otherwise.

    It is in this manner that Hawking uses science to justify atheism, not as a basis for atheism.

    Science does not adjudicate the existence/non-existence of extra-natural causation.

    Once again, I’ll hammer in the point – science cannot describe “extra-natural” causation (by definition), so anything described by science leaves the “extra-natural” realm and becomes simply a description of the natural. The discussion of everything left over is metaphysics and the belief that there is nothing left over is materialism. You’ve complained no one has defined it – I have now, twice.

    …but it most emphatically does not preclude investigation of natural effects that may be caused by extra-natural agency.

    Begging the question again. Quite simply, this is an erroneous argument. Just as I described vis-a-vis quantum entanglement and wave/particle duality, once science discovered an effect, the agency of that effect is, by definition, not “extra-natural.” Unless you wish to claim that god is acting as an “extra-natural” agent to effect quantum entanglement – in which case you have made a non-falsifiable hypothesis and created an extra step of explanation that need not be there. The principle of parsimony then renders that argument irrelevant.

    He does think that, but nothing he has written in any way substantiates his metaphysical claims.

    The “invisible dragon argument” – science must substantiate a claim in the negative regarding metaphysics. That makes no sense. You are in the position of having the burden of proof, not us. If you wish to claim metaphysical concepts, such as the existence of a god, you must provide evidence for that. Hawking is taking the parsimonious route again, as I have described above, and accurately claiming that metaphysics has no evidence or basis and thus completely eschewing it. If I claim to have an invisible dragon in my garage it is my burden to prove that to you, not for me to claim you must prove it doesn’t exist. Once again you make the mistake that metaphysics must inform material reality.

    verything he has written on the matter demonstrates philosophical naivete. He has not made a single credible metaphysical argument. Not one.

    Sadly, as I have demonstrated, it is you that has failed to make a credible argument.

    Furthermore, he (intentionally) leaves the impression that his sophomoric assertions that atheism is supported by science is an intellectually respectable opinion.

    That’s because it is.

  36. nybgruson 19 May 2011 at 9:54 pm

    apologies for the bad formatting – I really wish there was a preview option. I wrote this all immediately after waking up, mostly off the cuff, so I further apologize for and grammar or punctuation mistakes. I had to rush off as soon as I finished it for class and just now realized the formatting had gone awry.

  37. thequiet1on 19 May 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Mike12, you are one muddled up thinker. Materialists never define Materialism? Huh? Steve has used a clear and explicit definition and stuck to it. You are using your own weird strawman definition so you have something to attack, and you don’t even do that well.

    nybgrus, thanks for addressing it in length. I didn’t have the energy but didn’t want to see Mike12′s nonsense go unanswered.

  38. nybgruson 19 May 2011 at 10:09 pm

    thequiet1: your thanks has made the endeavor worthwhile – many thanks for that. I also felt he couldn’t go unanswered and for whatever reason managed to settle into it nicely over my morning coffee :-)

  39. Mike12on 19 May 2011 at 11:34 pm

    @nybgrus

    “it is quite oxymoronic to then claim that materialism is the subject of metaphysics.”

    I assume you’re kidding. Materialism is a metaphysical viewpoint, just as theism or atheism or Idealism are metaphysical viewpoints. Metaphysics is the study of ultimate reality, and materialism is an assertion about ultimate reality.

    “Simply becasue abstract concepts are used, does not make the subject immaterial.”

    Of course it does. Material things have extension in space, mass, etc. Abstract concepts are immaterial, by definition.

    “Thus, materialism is not only the actual observable objects, but also includes the observable effects on such objects.”

    What if the agent that causes the effect is not material and not in nature?

    “Since science can, by definition, only deal with that which is observable…”

    Was the Big Bang observable? By whom? How? And if you assert that its effects are observable, I reply that ID advocates assert the same thing- that the effects of intelligent design are observable (information content of living things). So you agree that ID is science. Christians assert that God’s actions in the world are observable. Is Christianity a branch of science?

    “When something does not in any way, shape, or form exert an observable effect on a tangible, material entity then it leaves the realm of science and becomes metaphysics.”

    You don’t even understand what metaphysics is. Metaphysics is the ground of science, in the sense that science is natural philosophy, and all philosophical systems are grounded in metaphysical viewpoints.

    “Neither origin nor beginning necessitates “cause” and your usage therein smacks of an attempt at using the Kalam argument for the existence of god.”

    I’d be interested to read your refutation of the Cosmological (Kalam) Argument.

    “Once again, I’ll hammer in the point – science cannot describe “extra-natural” causation (by definition), so anything described by science leaves the “extra-natural” realm and becomes simply a description of the natural. The discussion of everything left over is metaphysics and the belief that there is nothing left over is materialism. You’ve complained no one has defined it – I have now, twice.”

    You’ve confused naturalism with materialism. Your argument (such as it is) is for naturalism, not for materialism. You need to keep the Oxford Dictionary handy.

    “The principle of sufficient reason is a metaphysical concept that may or may not apply – but it doesn’t have to apply.”

    If you deny the PSR, you deny science, because ‘it just happened’ is a simpler explanation than any scientific explanation (less mathematics!).

    “Just as theism would invoke a deity that needed no first cause nor any need of the principle of sufficient reason, then it is reasonable for material atheism to say such principle do not apply to the origin of the universe, eschewing the exrta step of a deity.”

    No, because, as philosophers have shown for a millennium, an Uncaused Cause must have necessary existence. The universe is contingent and undergoes change, and cannot be the cause for its own existence.

    “That in no way needs to reflect on the remainder of the universe and your assertion that we must either accept the PoSR as you state it or else anything else in the universe can happen willy nilly is further begging the question.”

    My assertion that your rejection of the PSR nullifies science (and reason) isn’t ‘begging the question’. It’s merely pointing out the logical fallacy of your viewpoint. If the universe doesn’t need a cause, nothing in it needs a cause. So why do science?

    “Atheism is not a belief. It is the absence of belief.”

    Of course atheism is a belief. it is a proposition- there is no God or gods- and it’s every bit as much a proposition as ‘there is a God’. Get out your Oxford Dictionary again and look up ‘proposition’. And the reason that you atheists incessantly deny the obvious- that atheism is a proposition (belief) about reality is that you are afraid to defend atheism. It’s a remarkably weak metaphysical stance, and has rarely been defended cogently by competent philosophers. ‘Shit happened’ doesn’t stand up well in reasoned discourse.

    “If you wish to claim metaphysical concepts, such as the existence of a god, you must provide evidence for that.”

    God is not a thing, so the evidence for His existence is not data about things. The philosophical evidence for His existence is manifold, and is presented as metaphysical/logical demonstration, not scientific inference, which inherently cannot adjudicate extra-natural agency.

    Aquinas presented Five Ways of demonstrating God’s existence. His First Way, for example, observes that change in nature involves the reduction of potency to act in an essential series of changes. An essential series cannot entail infinite regress, so change in nature must entail an agent Who is pure act. That is Who we call God.

    I’d love to read your critique of Aquinas’ First Way.

    “Science can be refined, new experiments done, our theoretical models may predict it, but until it is observed it is not material and does not yet exist.”

    Nothing in the universe was observed or measured until the emergence of man. Did the universe exist before man? If so, who measured it and observed it?

  40. dwayneon 20 May 2011 at 12:12 am

    Wow. Apparently, few remember that this was Hawking’s answer to a direct question:

    “What, if anything, do you fear about death?”

    He responded with his opinion. This wasn’t Hawking calling a press conference, Hawking publishing a philosophical paper, Hawking disrupting a Catholic mass.

    It was an interview in which Hawking poetically told the reporter what he thought about death. Of course he didn’t go into great detail about the limits of science.

  41. Jeremiahon 20 May 2011 at 12:27 am

    “Did the universe exist before man? If so, who measured it and observed it?”

    Quite likely the universe has always existed, since unlike Hawking’s leap of logic, something cannot come from nothing – since, as someone else has pointed out, there can’t have been a nothing for that something to have, even in imagination, come from.

    And the universe will have had ways to observe and take ts own measures long before it gave birth to we humans as one of it’s countless versions of observers and measurers from the endlessness of time gone by.

    “The universe is contingent and undergoes change, and cannot be the cause for its own existence.”
    Except that if it’s the be-all/end-all of time and existence, it not only did not cause (or need to cause) itself, all the factors and elements for causation upon which those changes would be contingent have always been within its purvey and its grasp.

    The universe behaves with purpose and its purpose is to continue to behave. And if there are any gods out there it made them in its own imagination and not theirs.

    (I was having coffee and god help me I had to knock that out before the pot was emptied.)

  42. dwayneon 20 May 2011 at 12:36 am

    What if the agent that causes the effect is not material and not in nature?

    Then you can’t know the source of the effect, so you can’t say anything about it. You can call it God, you can call it anything, but you can’t pretend you know anything about it. To do otherwise would be supremely arrogant.

    “Since science can, by definition, only deal with that which is observable…”
    Was the Big Bang observable? By whom? How? And if you assert that its effects are observable, I reply that ID advocates assert the same thing- that the effects of intelligent design are observable (information content of living things). So you agree that ID is science. Christians assert that God’s actions in the world are observable. Is Christianity a branch of science?

    So if I tell you my garden only has tomatoes, your response is, “Here’s a tomato. It must have come from your garden?”

    Of course atheism is a belief. it is a proposition- there is no God or gods- and it’s every bit as much a proposition as ‘there is a God’.

    I agree with you, depending on your definition of atheism. But many people who call themselves atheists don’t define it the way you do.

    so change in nature must entail an agent Who is pure act. That is Who we call God.

    Amazing. Tell me more about this God. You can’t. You can’t tell me anything. All you have done is put a name to a philosophical construct.

    So many arguers for God focus solely on the possibility of the existence of something without realizing that that’s the easy part; the impossible part is to say anything of value about that “something,” which renders it irrelevant.

    That is how I define atheism.

  43. nybgruson 20 May 2011 at 12:48 am

    oof. looks like a need my flamethrower for all the straw men in the room.

    atheism or Idealism are metaphysical viewpoints

    obviously you have no idea what atheism means. Right here I should end the dialogue, but for whatever reason I am a bit more motivated.

    What if the agent that causes the effect is not material and not in nature?

    And how would you define such agency as being not in nature? I have already agreed that agency can be immaterial, but its existence is agreed upon based upon the effect it has on material objects. This is reminding of an argument I had with a creationist saying that the theory of evolution is just a theory whilst gravity is a law because gravity is directly observable. No, gravity is not observable. And as such, we cannot materially define it. In fact, gravity gives special relativity a big headache and incorporating the force and mechanism of gravity (i.e. gravitons) is difficult because it is extremely hard to empirically test at that level of resolution and refinement. However, the inference drawn that gravity does exist because we can form a theory about how it operates based on empirical observation and use that to predict outcomes within that theoretical framework. Thus, gravity, though an agency in itself immaterial exists within the material framework of the universe since it can only be defined by it effects on tangible objects.

    So I will pose the question again (which I would be willing to bet my lunch on you won’t ever actually answer) – define for me a way of determining that an effect is caused by an agency that is not within nature?

    Was the Big Bang observable? By whom? How? And if you assert that its effects are observable, I reply that ID advocates assert the same thing- that the effects of intelligent design are observable (information content of living things). So you agree that ID is science. Christians assert that God’s actions in the world are observable. Is Christianity a branch of science?

    The whole of this is so utterly devoid of intellectual honesty and critical thinking it boggles the mind. I refer you back to my original post where I clearly state that science does only deal with the observable. It is by creating a theoretical framework based in current observable, falsifiable, and replicatable empirical data that the strength of a theory is bolstered. That theory is then used to predict future outcomes. The more accurately the theory predicts these outcomes, the more sure we can be it is an accurate and reasonable theory. But we can never be 100% sure it is 100% accurate and infallible. Such is the nature of science. Once a theory has a large body of empirical evidence and predictive capability under its belt, then it can be reasonably used to extrapolate backwards and infer what something like the origin of the universe would have been like. We will never be certain – the reason things like ID and Christianity are not science is because they both make claims that have been falsified by empirical data and they both claim unfalsifiable absolute certainty as to such origins. Something which science recognizes it can never do.

    I’d be interested to read your refutation of the Cosmological (Kalam) Argument.

    Why read mine? I’ve already given you the brief version. Much smarter people than I have thoroughly thrashed Kalam. But then again, you are coming off as a William Lane Craig kinda guy, so once again, I’m beginning to confuse myself as to why I am bothering. But I’ll re-iterate: Kalam makes no sense, because it only shifts the burden of first cause from the universe itself to a deity with absolutely no reasonable justification. Rather than I having to refute Kalam, it is you who must prove Kalam. So, I will give you the simple question (which you will once again fail to answer):

    What empirical evidence or rational reason could possibly exist to assume that if a deity can exist ex nihilo and need not be ascribed a first cause the universe itself cannot? What justification is there for eschewing parsimony and assuming a deity with no cause when a universe with no cause is entirely equivalent?

    You need to keep the Oxford Dictionary handy.

    Why should I when I used the OED to define metaphysics and you dismissed that, continuing to assert your own definition?

    If you deny the PSR, you deny science, because ‘it just happened’ is a simpler explanation than any scientific explanation (less mathematics!).

    Another fallacious argument that has been repeatedly dismantled by others. Science always admits that “it just happened” – the point is how did it happen. There is a big difference between “the simplest explanation conceivable” and “the simplest explanation to actually describe what happened.” You clearly conflate the two and until you straighten that out you have no hope of understanding science.

    No, because, as philosophers have shown for a millennium, an Uncaused Cause must have necessary existence. The universe is contingent and undergoes change, and cannot be the cause for its own existence.

    Are you sure you aren’t William Lane Craig? Because you sure spout nonsense like he does. If a deity can be the singular entity that needs no cause, then there can (theoretically) be a different singularity that needs no cause – namely the universe itself. There is no rational reason as to why one would be favored over the other as the singularity possessing such an attribute. Except of course for parsimony, which dictates that adding a deity is an unnecessary step.

    Furthermore, as cutting edge quantum mechanics shows us, particles can and do regularly arise ex nihilo, having no cause for their existence except themselves. I suggest you read up on quantum foam, Hawking radiation, and try and understand quantum entanglement a bit better. A recent Nobel prize was awarded to the team that demonstrated, empirically that 90% of the mass of a proton is from the empty space between the quarks precisely because of quantum foam and mass-energy interactions ex nihilo. Now, take that bit of new knowledge and apply it to the observed evidence for CP asymmetry and it is actually rather easy to see that it is indeed possible for the universe to arise (in its entirety) from nothing, having no cause but itself, and yet all future events within said new universe having temporal causality.

    Your twisting out of OED definitions of metaphysics and spouting the OED back at me notwithstanding, your understanding of quantum mechanics is no deeper than William Lane Craig’s. Does any of this prove that this is the origin of the universe? Of course not. That is something for many years from now, if possible at all. What it does do, however, is demonstrate that there are viable alternatives to the Kalum argument and demonstrate “uncaused causes” which is enough to render Kalum and the argument of first cause null.

    Of course atheism is a belief. it is a proposition- there is no God or gods- and it’s every bit as much a proposition as ‘there is a God’. Get out your Oxford Dictionary again and look up ‘proposition’. And the reason that you atheists incessantly deny the obvious- that atheism is a proposition (belief) about reality is that you are afraid to defend atheism. It’s a remarkably weak metaphysical stance, and has rarely been defended cogently by competent philosophers. ‘Shit happened’ doesn’t stand up well in reasoned discourse.

    To quote another author I admire, “The stupid. It burrrrrns.”

    Once again I will refer you to the invisible dragon argument. Is it a proposition and expression of belief to assume that there is no invisible dragon in my garage? I think not. Your completely erroneous statement stems from your complete lack of understanding of what science is. Perhaps I should identify you as an a-Thor-ist, or a-Zues-ist, or a-magicalteapot-ist. You don’t actually believe in those things, do you? If I asked you, would you claim that you don’t believe in them? Then, by your logic, I can now assert that your a-magicalteapot-ism is a proposition and a belief. Now that we have defined and extrapolated what your notion of “belief” is, what logical conclusion does that lead us to? None. Because your argument hinges on the notion that atheism is a belief which much be substantiated by evidence to be a reasonable worldview. It requires that just as much as your disbelief in magical teapots requires evidence. Please, do the world a favor and understand where the burden of proof actually lies.

    God is not a thing, so the evidence for His existence is not data about things. The philosophical evidence for His existence is manifold, and is presented as metaphysical/logical demonstration, not scientific inference, which inherently cannot adjudicate extra-natural agency. Aquinas presented Five Ways of demonstrating God’s existence. His First Way, for example, observes that change in nature involves the reduction of potency to act in an essential series of changes. An essential series cannot entail infinite regress, so change in nature must entail an agent Who is pure act. That is Who we call God.

    Let me distill that Craig-ian argument down for the uninitiated:

    Nothing in the universe can detect god or his agency. Everything about how the universe works can be explained without invoking god, since science cannot reflect supernatural things. But lets just jam god in there anyways because of “manifold metaphysical” cogitation. And let me call it “logical” because that sounds good, even though there is absolutely no logic. And then let me cite an ancient and pre-scientific thinker to try and prove my claim even though he has no bearing on the argument. Oh, and lastly, let me first state that infinite regression is impossible, but then claim that god answers the question of infinite regression even though invoking his existence is in and of itself requiring infinite regression. Oh wait.. where did that logic go?

    There, fixed that for you.

    The only thing your argument (which isn’t yours, it is Craig’s, and that is patently obvious by now) proves is that what you choose to call “god” can just as easily be called “the universe.” There is nothing there that in any way, shape, or form justifies the need for supernatural agency or a personal god.

    Nothing in the universe was observed or measured until the emergence of man. Did the universe exist before man? If so, who measured it and observed it?

    Straw man. The only thing to emerge from that line of thinking is solipsism. You are correct – we cannot be certain that we did not just blink into existence nanoseconds ago. But what rational reason would you have for that. The only assumption we can make relies on the principle of parsimony and that eschews the need for such solipsistic considerations. Thus, as I have said repeatedly we form theoretical frameworks based on empirical evidence, test them against outcomes of predictions, and then use that to infer and extrapolate the past.

    Your “metaphysical” methodology only works in one place – your own head.

    And by the way – Craig has just recently shown how incredibly amoral and self contradictory such beliefs and argumentation are by writing an article that shows how the wholesale slaughter of children can and was morally justifiable. So go ahead and take your Kalum and metaphysical BS but don’t try and pretend it is a reasonable theoretical framework.

  44. nybgruson 20 May 2011 at 2:14 am

    @dwayne and jeremiah: Very succinct and wholly accurate, IMO. For Mike, that is exactly the point. I have proffered one view of the origin of the universe – one I think the science supports not proves. dwayne has given us another possibility. You must then realize that your version is also merely another possibility. Of course, I would argue that your possibility is much less likely than mine and there is empirical evidence to support that. More to the point, as dwayne correctly pointed out as well, your notion of god is nothing more than a claim that the “nothing” that is left over from material empiricism can be called god. Since you can say nothing more about it than that, I (and many smarter than I) would invoke the principle of parsimony and logic to eschew your conclusion.

    And yes, dwayne raises another very good point – there is absolutely no reason why Hawkings comments should have inspired such religious backlash. The only reason I can fathom is because the William Lane Craig’s of the world are faced with the looming demise of their postulates by empirical evidence and scientific reason which is embodied by Hawking’s comment. And when you have nothing left to stand on except pitiful attempts such as Kalam and First Cause and mental gymnastics for self-cogitating satisfaction your only recourse is to yell about a comment a handicapped physicist made about his own views of mortality.

  45. daedalus2uon 20 May 2011 at 8:34 am

    If a cause has a material effect, by definition, that cause is material and can be analyzed by the material effects it has.

  46. SteveAon 20 May 2011 at 8:41 am

    nybgrus.

    A big thank you for going to so much trouble.

    I find it extraordinary that someone like Mike12 can’t see the following statement for the self-cancelling equation it is.

    “God is not a thing, so the evidence for His existence is not data about things. The philosophical evidence for His existence is manifold, and is presented as metaphysical/logical demonstration, not scientific inference, which inherently cannot adjudicate extra-natural agency.”

    God is not a thing and cannot have an effect on anything. He/it’s all in the mind.

  47. Mike12on 20 May 2011 at 9:41 am

    @daedalus2u

    “If a cause has a material effect, by definition, that cause is material and can be analyzed by the material effects it has.”

    What gibberish. ‘Material effects must have material causes’ is mere assertion, without even a pretense of logical rigor. The Big Bang was a material effect. What was its material cause?

    @SteveA

    “God is not a thing and cannot have an effect on anything. He/it’s all in the mind.”

    The classical theist view (Chiristian, Jewish, Islamic) is this:

    God is not a thing. Things have essence and existence, which are distinct from each other. God’s essence is His existence. God is the ground of existence.

    You may disagree with this assertion, but first you must understand the assertion, and then you must engage it with something resembling intellectual rigor. You do neither.

    @nybgrus:

    “Nothing in the universe can detect god or his agency.’

    The human intellect can. That’s how this debate is possible.

    “Everything about how the universe works can be explained without invoking god…”

    No. Neither change in nature, nor the cause of nature, nor the existence of nature, nor grades of perfection in nature, nor teleology in nature can be explained without invocation of a Prime Mover/First Cause/Necessary Being/Cause of Being and Perfection/Final Cause.

    And you don’t really disagree with these assertions, because in order to ‘disagree with an assertion’ you must understand the assertion. You don’t. ‘Disagreement’ implies cogency you lack.

    You clearly don’t understand any of these arguments. This is of course characteristic of atheists, who present sophmoric ‘arguments’ in an effort to refute rigorously reasoned demonstrations of God’s existence.

    There have of course been credible efforts to refute these demonstrations of God’s existence (Hume and Kant most prominently). Both of these philosophers had at least a cursory understanding of the arguments. Hume’s understanding was barely cursory (he asserted that the universe itself was the ground of existence, which has been utterly refuted for at least a millenium). Kant’s was a bit more sophisticated (he asserted that creation of the universe was noumenal and thus not analyzable by human reason). Kant’s argument fails because he thus denies the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and in doing so renders irrelevant any science or reason, including his own argument.

    “And let me call it “logical” because that sounds good, even though there is absolutely no logic.”

    Aquinas explicates the Prime Mover argument (which he believed was the strongest of the demonstrations) for 200 pages in Summa, with excruciatingly detailed and rigorous logic. You don’t even understand a cartoonish version of the argument, let alone the meticulous logic that grounds it.

    “And then let me cite an ancient and pre-scientific thinker to try and prove my claim even though he has no bearing on the argument.

    Aquinas’ “pre-scientific” rediscovery and explication of Aristotle was the foundation of the early Renaissance of the 12th century, and was fundamental to the Enlightenment and to the emergence of modern science. You don’t even understand history.

    “Oh, and lastly, let me first state that infinite regression is impossible, but then claim that god answers the question of infinite regression even though invoking his existence is in and of itself requiring infinite regression.”

    Infinite regression in an essential series is impossible. Infinite regression in an accidental series is possible (c.f Aristotle). The Prime Mover argument turns on the impossibility of essential infinite regress. The existence of the Prime Mover is deduced from the impossibility of essential infinite regress in a causual natural series. But you don’t understand any of this.

    “Oh wait.. where did that logic go?”

    A good synopsis of atheism.

    You need to understand the difference between assertion and argument. All of you typing thus far has been assertion. Argument requires 1) Understanding of the actual issue 2) Logical analysis.

    Still waiting for either.

  48. Mike12on 20 May 2011 at 9:55 am

    @nybgrus:

    “there is absolutely no reason why Hawkings comments should have inspired such religious backlash. ”

    The backlash is logical, not religious. Hawking is using his street cred as a theoretical physicist to buttress philosophical blather that would flunk a freshman philosophy student. Being an accomplished physicist is not licence to peddle crap. Countless uninformed people unwisely give creedence to his nonsense. We Christians believe that this endangers people’s souls, so obviously we think that it is atrocious. May people who are not religious yet who respect reasoned public discourse are disgusted as well. Stupid is stupid, in any metaphysical context.

    The only thing that Hawking could say that would warrant respect is this:

    ‘I’m a renowned theoretical physicist who does not believe in God or the afterlife. I’m too lazy/stupid to ground my opinion in reasoned logic, but that’s my right.”

    You could honestly say the same thing, except that you’re not a renowned theoretical physicist.

  49. mufion 20 May 2011 at 11:08 am

    Mike12 asserted: Neither change in nature, nor the cause of nature, nor the existence of nature, nor grades of perfection in nature, nor teleology in nature can be explained without invocation of a Prime Mover/First Cause/Necessary Being/Cause of Being and Perfection/Final Cause.

    To which I assert: There is no “cause of nature.” Nature (in the sense of the universe or multiverse) just is – inexplicably. Asserting a First Cause merely pushes the conundrum up a level. Besides, even if one could make a convincing argument for a “First Cause”, it does not logically follow that the cause bears personal or mental traits (a la Yahweh of the Abrahamic traditions), such as intentions or purposes (which is perhaps why the natural sciences disposed of teleological explanations long ago).

  50. Steven Novellaon 20 May 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Mike12 – your arrogant insults and assertions are not a substitute for reasoned arguments.

    The “prime mover” argument logically fails as just an elaborate god-of-the-gaps argument. It also does not solve any perceived problems with the existence of the universe, it just removes it one step.

    Cosmologists are making decent strides in understanding the big bang. It was not the creation of something from nothing, but a transition in the quantum state of the universe. There is also difficulty in speaking about time with respect to the origin of the universe because time is a property of the universe itself.

    In other words – you commit the fallacy of confusing currently unknown with unknowable then insert god into the gap. I don’t care how many pages have been written about this (millions of pages have been wasted pursuing fundamentally flawed concepts)

    Briefly – you appear to be more profoundly ignorant of cosmology than you accuse your fellow commenters of being ignorant of theology.

  51. Mike12on 20 May 2011 at 12:13 pm

    @mufi

    “To which I assert: There is no “cause of nature.” Nature (in the sense of the universe or multiverse) just is – inexplicably.”

    What about the Principle of Sufficient Reason don’t you understand? It’s fine to say that nature “just is”, but then that’s all you can say, because if nature is uncaused, then each thing in it can be explained as existing without cause. Denial of cause in nature is denial of science, reason, logic, everything. What a stupid argument.

    And if you assert that saying God ‘just is’ is the same thing, you’d be wrong. God is outside of nature, His existence is His essence, and He is precisely that which actually ‘just is’. Nature, however, cannot have that attribute, because its contingent, unless you deny science and reason.

    “Asserting a First Cause merely pushes the conundrum up a level.”

    Nope. Pure Act (God) is the First Cause, and resolves the conundrum.

    “Besides, even if one could make a convincing argument for a “First Cause”…”

    There’s no “if”. Aquinas (and many others) make convincing, powerful, thus far unrefuted arguments for a First Cause. Just because you don’t know about the arguments doesn’t mean they haven’t been made.

    “…it does not logically follow that the cause bears personal or mental traits (a la Yahweh of the Abrahamic traditions), such as intentions or purposes…”

    Aquinas spent a couple of hundred pages in Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles on this; the explication is under the Convertibilitiy of Transcendentials. His demonstration was that the First Cause (Prime Mover/Necessary Existence…etc) was necessarily ultimate Good, Being, Power, etc, and that God is personal, not a ‘thing’ or a ‘mechanism’.

    “(which is perhaps why the natural sciences disposed of teleological explanations long ago).”

    Teleological explanations were set aside several centuries ago, by stipulation rather than because of evidence/logic. There has been a strong resurgence of teleology in science during the 20th century (see ‘New Essentialism’). Quantum mechanics presupposes teleology (quantum entanglement is backward causation-teleology) and many biologists have pointed out that evoltionary biology presupposes teleology (adaptations are ‘for’ something) and biology is gibberish without invocation of teleology (try describing the heart without mentioning that it is “for” pumping blood).

    The best recent discussion of this stuff is Ed Feser’s “Aquinas”, which is written at a very simple level, perfect for atheists.

  52. Steven Novellaon 20 May 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Mike-

    The first cause argument is philosophically bankrupt. You are simply saying that god is something that does not require a first cause. Of course, you are free to make up whatever attributes you need god to have, without any falsifiability. That’s why its mental masturbation.

    We can also just say the the universe itself does not need a first cause, or that it is a manifestation of something bigger that does not need a first cause. Again – the arrow of causation requires time. You are trying to explain the universe from a frame of reference within the universe, including the arrow of time. This is ultimately nonsensical. Aquinas could not have known about modern cosmology and physics because it did not exist yet.

    And it is a non-sequitur to argue that if the universe has no cause then everything in it has no cause. Things in the universe are subject to the laws of the universe, including the arrow of time. The universe itself is subject to higher order physical laws, ones we are struggling to understand, but they are not the same.

    Hawking, for example, argues that the universe may be finite but unbound in the temporal dimension, just as it is finite but unbound in the three physical dimensions.

    Further – your argument for teleology in biology or science as a whole are naive and flat out wrong. The heart being “for” something does not imply teleology, nor does anything about evolution.

  53. chaos4zapon 20 May 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Mike12, you might want to check out the Iron chariots Wiki. They cover all the arguments that you are making and as someone else pointed out, why say it again when someone else already has. There is a link below to the errors in Kalam. You remind me very much of the guy that does the “skeptico” pod-cast. You clearly have a desperate need to believe and feel as if it is logical and intellectual to believe. Your mind just can’t handle that it’s all non-sense so you dig, search and stretch just about anything you can find to try and justify your beliefs. Nothing you’re saying is new and the flaws in your arguments have been addressed by many sources. Just because you don’t care to seek out these sources (I’ve saved you some trouble by providing a link to one such source below) and want to pretend your, so called, logic is novel…doesn’t make it so. Get with the program. Spewing stale ideas that have been refuted and only sound convincing to those that know nothing about logic and/or science are not going to be productive here. You have clearly started with a conclusion and not being clever enough to make sense of it on your own; you opt for re-hashing arguments of others that have long since been refuted. Do you have a “believer only” version of google? It would take an extraordinary amount of intellectually dishonesty and selective sourcing for you to not know that these arguments are old and don’t hold up.

    http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Kalam

  54. Mike12on 20 May 2011 at 12:38 pm

    @ Steven Novella

    “The “prime mover” argument logically fails as just an elaborate god-of-the-gaps argument. It also does not solve any perceived problems with the existence of the universe, it just removes it one step.”

    No. The prime mover argument (in Cliff Note) is this:

    Change in nature involves the reduction of potency to act in an essential series of changes. An essential series cannot entail infinite regress, so change in nature must entail an agent Who is pure act. That is Who we call God.

    A more detailed explication is here:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/09/jerry_coyne_and_aquinas_first024951.html

    My challenge: point out the fallacy.

    “Cosmologists are making decent strides in understanding the big bang. It was not the creation of something from nothing, but a transition in the quantum state of the universe. There is also difficulty in speaking about time with respect to the origin of the universe because time is a property of the universe itself.”

    All of the classical Aristotelian/Thomist demonstrations for God’s existence presuppose an eternal past. A finite past is such obvious evidence for God’s existence that the classical philosophers/theologians thought it too easy to prove, and they therefore assumed the most difficult premises for their proof. The proofs depend of the impossibility of an essential series of infinite regress, which is a series of causes in which each effect continutes to depend on its cause for its ongoing existence.

    Absolutely nothing in modern cosmology refutes or even touches the classical theist proofs. The Prime Mover demonstration explains natural change now; the First Cause explains existence now, etc. All of these classical arguments presume a universe without beginning. ‘Without beginning’ does not mean without cause.

    “In other words – you commit the fallacy of confusing currently unknown with unknowable then insert god into the gap.”

    Classical demonstrations of God’s existence are deductive arguments that conclude logically with the existence of a First Cause, Prime Mover, etc. They are not inductive arguments that insert gods into gaps. You obviously don’t understand the arguments.

    “I don’t care how many pages have been written about this (millions of pages have been wasted pursuing fundamentally flawed concepts)”

    You obviously don’t care. You should, and you would gain insight by reading some of them.

    “Briefly – you appear to be more profoundly ignorant of cosmology than you accuse your fellow commenters of being ignorant of theology.”

    We’re all somewhat ignorant of cosmology, in the sense that none of us are cosmologists. That said, I’ll put my (limited) cosmological knowledge against yours anytime.

    And I assume theological ignorance on the part of atheists. Why should the present differ from the past? My assertions of ignorance of commenters is of their philosophical ignorance, which is manifest.

    Prove me wrong by refuting Aquinas’ First Way, here, in a public forum.

  55. chaos4zapon 20 May 2011 at 12:52 pm

    http://www.devilsdictionarydefiled.com/Essays/AquinasProofGod.html

    Here is another that covers all of aquinas’ so-called “proofs”. Once again, a simple google search gives you an extensive list of people deconstruction all of these stale arguments. It’s time you start being honest with us and more importanly, yourself. You apparently have nothing new to add to the conversation on this matter.

  56. chaos4zapon 20 May 2011 at 12:58 pm

    And another point, just as with many other arguments…Even if these stale arguments were logical and if were willing to throw critical thinking out the window and grant you your premises, there is no specific argument for your “god” (whatever or whomever that might be) When Zeus, fairies or big foot are interchangeable in your argument for whatever specific god your trying to justify, then what are you really arguing for? You convincing yourself that these arguments are logically sound and are also justification for whatever your SPECIFIC beliefs are is nothing more than a self-serving delusion.

  57. mufion 20 May 2011 at 1:14 pm

    What Steve said.

    I’ll just add a recommendation: Check out the chapter on Events and Causes in Philosophy in the Flesh by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. It explores from a contemporary cognitive-science angle the metaphors that embody those concepts and how they are rooted in human sensorimotor experience.

    Of course, the history of scientific progress demonstrates how much we can infer from these conceptual metaphors (especially when equipped with stronger tools & techniques) about our environment, the universe, and even ourselves. But there is good (biological) reason to doubt that any of these wares can afford us access to eternal, transcendent, or metaphysical truths—whether they be theistic or atheistic in kind.

  58. Steven Novellaon 20 May 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Mike wrote “Change in nature involves the reduction of potency to act in an essential series of changes. An essential series cannot entail infinite regress, so change in nature must entail an agent Who is pure act. That is Who we call God”

    That is just another way of saying that the work energy of the universe is finite, which is a given. You are just saying that “magic man” made all the energy. That is absolutely a god-of-the-gaps argument.

    And it doesn’t solve the alleged problem – saying that magic man is magic does not make the problem of where the energy came from go away. It is all a vast semantic game passing itself off as logic. And as others have pointed out – deconstructed and dispensed with long ago by actual philosophers.

    What I am saying is that cosmologists are approaching the question of where the energy of the universe came from from a scientific point of view, and it is not a hopeless question. We probably have to unite quantum mechanics with general relativity before we can really answer the question. But there are viable hypotheses.

    The bottom line is that there is no logical reason that there cannot be an answer. But first you have to free yourself at least a little bit from the classical frame of reference (the frame that Aquinas was restricted to). The answer is not there.

  59. neverknowon 20 May 2011 at 2:59 pm

    “you have to free yourself at least a little bit from the classical frame of reference”

    Materialists have to free themselves from the classical frame of reference also. Consider the possibility that things are made out of information, not matter. Information is impossible to define, but we have some idea what we mean by it. If things are made out of information, then the universe seems to be an immense computer. If we look at it that way, things and ideas are not so different. The classical frame of reference separates them, but is that really warranted?

  60. Steven Novellaon 20 May 2011 at 3:14 pm

    But it’s the “materialists” (i.e. scientists) who have destroyed the classical framework (at least as a description of the ultimate reality of nature). We live in a quantum and relativistic universe, that behaves classically on the macroscopic and temporal scales with which were are familiar. Reality is probably weird in other ways we haven’t figured out yet.

    Tell me – what insight does “matter as information” provide? What predictions does it make? What anomalies does it resolve? How is it useful as a scientific concept? I am open to this idea – I just would like to know what the utility is. Otherwise you’re just playing word games.

  61. mufion 20 May 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Steve asked neverknow: what insight does “matter as information” provide?

    It reminds us how easy it is to mistake a metaphor for a literal truth.

  62. neverknowon 20 May 2011 at 4:38 pm

    “But it’s the “materialists” (i.e. scientists) who have destroyed the classical framework”

    Scientists are not necessarily materialists. Materialism is a philosophy. Furthermore, “materialism” is never adequately defined.

    “Reality is probably weird in other ways we haven’t figured out yet.”

    Exactly.

    “Tell me – what insight does “matter as information” provide?”

    If things are actually made out of information (and this is one of the current theories), then maybe the universe is some kind of immense computer. Of course, its abilities would be far beyond our humble little computers. But let’s say something like that might be the case — then we would have to admit the dividing line between mind and matter gets blurred. The universe starts to remind us, possibly, of a great mind. And then we have to start thinking — well some of us imagine ‘god” as some kind of a great creative mind. And then we start to become, possibly, a little sympathetic to some religious ideas, at least in an abstract sense, from an objective scientific perspective.

  63. Mike12on 20 May 2011 at 4:56 pm

    neverknow said:

    “Materialists have to free themselves from the classical frame of reference also.”

    Good point. Much of atheist/materialist metaphysics is based on antiquated notions of classical physics. Old metaphysical arguments retain their force if they are logically strong. Old physics arguments need to be updated. It’s remarkable that much of the ‘strangeness’ of 20th century science- quantum entanglement, quantum probability functions and collapse of the wave function, convergent evolution- can be understood much more effectively using classical metaphysics than with modernistic mechanical metaphysics. Quantum entanglement is an example of retrograde causation, which is Aristotelian/Thomist final causation; quantum probability functions are the potency and quantum collapse is the act of classical Aristotelian hylemorphism (a point made by Heisenberg, who was an Aristotelian), and convergent evolution is an obvious example of teleology/final causation (‘directedness’ in nature).

    “Consider the possibility that things are made out of information, not matter. Information is impossible to define, but we have some idea what we mean by it.”

    Aristotelian hylemorphism understood things (substances) as composites of prime matter (pure potency) and substantial form (pure act). Form is defined as the ‘intelligible principle’ of a thing. In that sense, the classical concept of ‘form’ encompasses what we moderns call ‘information’.

    There is much wisdom in the classical way of understanding nature. That deep Aristotelian insight was adapted by Aquinas and many other theologians and philosophers into Christian metaphysics, which is the pinnacle of Western thought. It is the foundation of modern science, much of modern law, and much of modern ethics.

    A coterie of pig-ignorant new atheists have been trying very hard to tear it down, and a push-back (not merely from Christians but from educated agnostics and even atheists-Michael Ruse comes to mind) is growing. It’s time we held these idiots who assert ‘my science disproves God’ to real intellectual standards. As you can see, they don’t do well when you shine a light on them.

    I’ll reply to Steven Novella’s comments shortly.

  64. Jeremiahon 20 May 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Mike, your God seems to need a theme-song. How about this oldie but goodie:
    “Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
    Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
    Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
    Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?”

  65. Mike12on 20 May 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Jeremiah

    “Mike, your God seems to need a theme-song…”

    God isn’t the god of deism. But your song is funny. Sing it for Him, when you meet Him.

  66. tmac57on 20 May 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Mike12-
    How do you feel about those idiots who assert “my God disproves science’? You OK with that?

  67. Jeremiahon 20 May 2011 at 7:20 pm

    But Mike, if as you say, God does intervene in the universe, and consequently interacts with human kind, is he incapable of regret that he made them so cantankerous that they won’t listen to his reasons for having made them, and thus act according to his intended purposes?

  68. nybgruson 20 May 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I am humbled by the level of rhetoric that has ensued since my last comment (well, save Mike12, of course).

    Dr. Novella – thank you for taking the time to chime in. If there is anyone I would feel honored to have a beer and a conversation with it is you. And if SteveA, chaos, mufi, jeremiah, and daedalus joined I’d buy a couple of pitchers and be ensured to have an actually stimulating conversation.

    As my med school compadre oft reminds me, such “dialogues” as we see here are in fact monologues. Mike12 has no interest in intellectual honesty, and as my esteemed co-commenters have pointed out, each of the arguments he uses are not only not his own, but have been thoroughly, repeatedly, and unequivocally dismantled and cast aside by philosophers and scientists vastly more erudite and detailed than I. But it was sometime last year that I realized the point is not to “convert” the likes of Mike12 – it is to use a wall like him to sharpen your own rhetorical skills, deepen your own knowledge, and better learn how to apply that to every day life.

    Having said that, I don’t think I will take the time to further dismantle each and every piece of flotsam issuing from Mike’s keyboard, but there were a few bits that thoroughly stuck in my craw as I read them:

    What gibberish. ‘Material effects must have material causes’ is mere assertion, without even a pretense of logical rigor.

    Actually, it is empirical fact. There need not be any logic to assert it.

    You may disagree with this assertion, but first you must understand the assertion, and then you must engage it with something resembling intellectual rigor. You do neither.

    Such a classic example of self-delusion. Pots and kettles readily come to mind.

    The human intellect can. That’s how this debate is possible.

    This is the key here. And I do mean fundamentally key. These two sentences alone completely elucidate the ephemeral nature of Mike’s entire argumentation. What is interesting, is that if Mike actually used logic, as he claims we don’t, the only logical conclusion from these statements is: “God only exists within the human mind.”

    Nope. Pure Act (God) is the First Cause, and resolves the conundrum.

    *Stares at blue sky. Blinks. Stares again. Blinks. Turns back and says, “Nope. Its red.”*

    Aquinas (and many others) make convincing, powerful, thus far unrefuted arguments for a First Cause. Just because you don’t know about the arguments doesn’t mean they haven’t been made.

    A can’t help but hammer it in again. We know the arguments. We acknowledge they have been made. They simply aren’t powerful or convincing unless you already believe in a god and are trying to find ways to justify that belief. Really. They are not powerful nor convincing.

    and many biologists have pointed out that evoltionary biology presupposes teleology (adaptations are ‘for’ something) and biology is gibberish without invocation of teleology (try describing the heart without mentioning that it is “for” pumping blood).

    And this particularly stuck in my craw. Cosmology and quantum mechanics are a hobby of mine. A side interest, if you will. Philosophy is something I try and do with the goal of not making a fool of myself, never under the pretense of being particularly good at it. But biology, especially evolutionary biology, is something I actually do know quite well. And when theists fundamentally misrepresent what evolution actually is and what the theory states, it really gets my goat. And gives me that same annoyed feeling like that tiny piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth that you just can’t get out.

    There is absolutely NOTHING (did I make that emphatic enough??) in evolutionary theory that presupposes, requires, or makes use of teleology. Period. Absolutely end of story. When it comes to someone making claims that we don’t understand the archaic pre-scientific BS arguments of people dead for hundreds or thousands of years, but can’t grasp the very basics of a currently used and robust theory I can’t help but have a neuron or two pop at the irony.

    So go ahead Mike. Keep pretending that evolutionary theory states what you presuppose. It doesn’t and no amount of your saying so will change that.

    Absolutely nothing in modern cosmology refutes or even touches the classical theist proofs.

    Damn shame that the only modern cosmology you know is the tripe your regurgitate from William Lane Craig.

    That said, I’ll put my (limited) cosmological knowledge against yours anytime.

    You have. And failed. You’re just too pompous and sure of yourself (a classic theistic tragic flaw) to realize it.

    Prove me wrong by refuting Aquinas’ First Way, here, in a public forum.

    Why should we? Not only have you not answered the questions I asked (as I predicted), but your answers are given as links to said refutations – which, by the way, is a public forum.

    And of course you didn’t answer the questions as I predicted – because you can’t. And all the Gish Gallops in the world wont change the fact that you can’t because they are fundamental flaws in your arguments that completely dismantle your thesis.

    It’s time we held these idiots who assert ‘my science disproves God’ to real intellectual standards. As you can see, they don’t do well when you shine a light on them.

    And once again, Gish Gallop coupled with “I’m gonna say whatever makes my argument work, regardless of what anyone else is actually saying.” I call it mental self-cogitation. Dr. Novella calls it mental masturbation. Either way, that is what you are engaged in, Mike. Not any sort of “intellectual standard.”

    Nobody, not even Hawking, has said “my science disproves god.” Science has shown us that we do not need god to explain things that in the past were explained by god. Science says that the likelihood of god is very low. That is all.

    Of course, science can (and has) disproven specific gods such as thor, zeus, and the christian god of the bible.

    So, Mike, as was pointed out above: why is your specific christian god the god? Even assuming your ‘arguments’ were actually cogent and correct, you still have yet to prove why Yahweh is the god instead of Allah.

    Dinesh D’Souza attempts to make this “proof.” I made it halfway through his book before the taste of vomit in the back of my throat was overwhelming. And out of the 150 pages or so I did read, I did not encounter a single “proof” of anything. At all. It was quite amazing to me, really.

    And interesting tactic when trying to argue (anything) is to attempt to take the side of your opposition. Most atheists do this, which is why they are atheists in the first place. As polls and studies have shown, atheists actually know more about theology than theists do. And as Dave Silverman said, if I ever have children I will give them a bible to read. Because actually reading it is the best way to make an atheist.

    But for you, I would, in all seriousness, recommend that you try this: explain to us (or yourself or anyone) why you don’t believe in allah. Or zeus. Or thor. Just as an exercise try it. Make strong cogent arguments. Because I assume you don’t believe in those gods. Then, take those same arguments and change ‘allah’ to ‘yahweh’ and see if the argument materially changes.

    Of course you know the answer. It won’t.

  69. daedalus2uon 20 May 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Mike, what I said:

    If a cause has a material effect, by definition, that cause is material and can be analyzed by the material effects it has.

    Is not an assertion, it is the definition of what material causes and effects are. All causes of material effects are material causes and all effects of material causes are material effects.

    What is non-material then (for which a definition isn’t really necessary because what is non-material has no material effects) is what ever does not have material causes or material effects. This definition of material and non-material is mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.

    We may not know all the details of what is material. Dark matter and dark energy are not well understood. But if they exist, they are material because they have material effects even if those material effects are only mediated through gravity. If they have no effects then they are non-material and have no influence and are irrelevant.

    You want to use your own idiosyncratic and inconsistent definition of “material” and “non-material” so as to give you wiggle room to fit what ever beliefs you want to fit into it.

    The question of what came before the big bang is not a well formed question. It is like asking what is north of the north pole. Space-time started at the big bang. There is no “before” because the time metric only has meaning in space-time. It is exactly like why there is nothing north of the north pole. North and south are only defined on the surface of the Earth. The two points of the Earth’s axis are as far north and a far south as you can go. It isn’t because of some mystical magic property of the Earth’s axis, it is simply the definition of north and south on an approximately spherical planet.

    For time to be defined, there has to be space-time, which limits the discussion to events when there was such a thing as space-time which is after the big bang.

  70. Mike12on 20 May 2011 at 10:07 pm

    @nybgrus

    “But for you, I would, in all seriousness, recommend that you try this: explain to us (or yourself or anyone) why you don’t believe in allah. Or zeus. Or thor. Just as an exercise try it. Make strong cogent arguments. Because I assume you don’t believe in those gods. Then, take those same arguments and change ‘allah’ to ‘yahweh’ and see if the argument materially changes.”

    I have no intention of explaining to you my very personal reasons for faith in Christ. (Matthew 7:6)

    My point here is simple: the classical demonstrations for the existence of God are meticulously argued logic. You cannot address them unless you understand them, and understanding them is not easy. Your philosophical gibberish doesn’t come close to facing these arguments, which presuppose working knowledge of Aristotle’s hylomorphism, his theory of causation, his distinction between essential and accidental causual series, Aquinas’ distinction between essence and existence, etc. These arguments require a genuine engagement with the topic, just as arguments about calculus require genuine engagement with the relevant mathematics. Throwing words around doesn’t cut it.

    The original issue in this string was Hawking’s public assertions about God and science. Steven Hawking is a philosophical moron. The headlines about his inane ‘evidence’ for the non-existence of God should have been:

    “Has-Been Scientist On Book Tour Embarasses Himself with Philosophical Gibberish”

    Fortunately, I really do see a backlash against atheist luddism. Increasingly people seem to understand that you bastards are hijacking science to peddle your pig-ignorant metaphysical agenda. You are even embarassing other atheists.

    In the long run, your only option for victory will be to impose your crap on people by force, which is the hallmark of atheism in power. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_atheism]

    There are many of us who will fight you at every turn.

  71. Jeremiahon 20 May 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Mike, define “bastard” in a way that won’t apply to Jesus.

  72. mufion 20 May 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Throwing words around doesn’t cut it.

    I agree. So when will you begin to follow your own advice?

  73. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 12:07 am

    @daedalus2u:

    “If a cause has a material effect, by definition, that cause is material and can be analyzed by the material effects it has…”

    I have no interest in neologisms. ‘Material’ means ‘natural thing with mass and extended in space’. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I suspect that you are advocating philosophical naturalism, but who the hell knows what you really mean.

    “The question of what came before the big bang is not a well formed question.”

    That’s why I never asked it.

    The beginning of the universe is creation, not causation. Creation is atemporal, because God is not in time.

    Classical understanding of causation (not creation) is in time but is not temporally constrained. Causes can precede effects (material causes), be simultaneous with effects (efficient and formal causes), or occur after effects (final causes).

    The classical cosmological demonstrations of God’s existence (Aquinas 1,2,and 3) are causation arguments, and presuppose an infinite past. The arguments describe the cause of change/existence here and now, and do not presuppose a finite past with a ‘moment of creation’. That’s why Hawking’s argument that cosmology obviates the need for God is so asinine. The classical Aristotelian/Thomist arguments had nothing to do with the beginning of the universe. They have to do with explaining the universe as it exists at each moment.

    You don’t know even the rudiments of the arguments that you presume to refute.

  74. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 12:44 am

    @nybgrus

    “But biology, especially evolutionary biology, is something I actually do know quite well.

    Why does that not surprise me. Evolutionary biology is like moonbat flypaper. (“… Natural Selection…Darwin had the GREATEST idea ever…”). Tautologies sure send chills up your leg.

    “And when theists fundamentally misrepresent what evolution actually is and what the theory states, it really gets my goat…
    There is absolutely NOTHING (did I make that emphatic enough??) in evolutionary theory that presupposes, requires, or makes use of teleology.”

    All change in nature is teleological. All change is ‘from something to something’. All change entails efficient (agent) causation and final causation (teleology) that defines the effect produced by the cause.

    ‘To something’ is the teleological part. Change is intrinsically teleological, because it is nonsense to describe change as from something without asserting ‘to something’. That’s what Aristotle meant when he pointed out that all four causes are needed to coherently understand natural change. In fact, he observed that final cause (teleology) is the most important cause (the “cause of causes”), because it orders the other causes in the sense of directing them. Evolution is wholly teleological, to the bone, just like everything else.

    Now, just to put your constricted mind to rest, Aristotelian teleology incorporates what we normally mean as ‘purpose’, although Aristotle did not believe that nature has purpose analogous to human purpose. Aquinas did explicitly compare natural teleology to intelligent agency (his Fifth Way), but that was not Aristotelian doctrine.

    If you actually intend to deny teleology in nature, and you want to shift gears and act with intellectual integrity, then you must expunge all reference to purpose in biology. Hearts aren’t for circulation, eyes aren’t for seeing, DNA isn’t for transmitting heredity. Just material, efficient, and formal causes. Constituent atoms, laws of physics, shapes of things. Ventricles contract, valves open and close, but no reference to why (to pump blood). No reference to function. Good luck.

    Of course, you’re allergic to final causes because you think that final causes presuppose God, and you will do anything to evict Him from your metaphysics. It’s fair to say that that defines your metaphysics- ‘whatever’s necessary to deny the existence of God’.

    So just stick with Aristotle, acknowledge the ubiquity of teleology, and you can make sense about nature (and evolutionary biology) without bringing God into your shabby little metaphysics.

  75. nybgruson 21 May 2011 at 1:05 am

    oh mikey. it’s laughable really. I have lost interest in continuing to deconstruct your warped and inane ideas (well, not even yours really – parroting something you don’t understand yourself doesn’t count).

    However, I will take a second to point out that of the 3 specific questions asked (the answers of which could further your point) you have answered exactly none. 2 you ignored entirely and the third you made a straw man and burned it.

    I have no intention of explaining to you my very personal reasons for faith in Christ.

    Both a straw man and deft irony. I never asked you to do so. I asked you to explain why you don’t believe in Thor. And to top it off, you have been spending extensive time trying to demonstrate why god must exist.

    Of course, if you can explain why you don’t believe in Thor, the cognitive dissonance of your belief in christ would overwhelm you. Hence your dodge of the question. But intellectual honesty is a trait patently missing in the likes of William Lane Craig and his acolytes.

  76. Jeremiahon 21 May 2011 at 1:11 am

    Mike12,
    Causes that occur after effects are final causes? How misleading did you intend for that definition to be? Or do you subscribe to the general rules for what our evangelistic brothers would call “lying for Jesus,” where the nature of the lie will depend on the perception of some poor bastard’s gullibility?
    Wikipedia: “Final cause, or telos, is defined as the purpose, end, aim, or goal of something. Aristotle, who defined the term, explicitly argued that a telos can be present without any form of deliberation, consciousness or intelligence in general.”

    Some details have a way of being inconvenient to an argument.
    But you knew that.

  77. 2_wordson 21 May 2011 at 1:14 am

    But it still remains, that there is a point past which we don’t know or understand. To name it as god or as the first cause denotes certainty about what it is. How can any attribute be attached to something by definition beyond definition? It only adds another paradox.

    I don’t understand where the certainty arises.

    I can fix any causal loop by defining the solution as “thing which fixes causal loop.” How is that an answer to anything?

    I suppose if one describes it as ultimate or final or out of time it lends weight to feeling of having solved a problem.

  78. BillyJoe7on 21 May 2011 at 7:42 am

    Jeremiah,

    “something cannot come from nothing”

    The Casimir Effect.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect

    “And the universe will have had ways to observe and take ts own measures long before it gave birth to we humans”

    The universe is conscious?

    “The universe behaves with purpose and its purpose is to continue to behave.”

    The universe has purpose?

  79. BillyJoe7on 21 May 2011 at 7:43 am

    nybgrus,

    “jeremiah: Very succinct and wholly accurate”

    I believe we have a trojan horse here.
    I don’t believe he is speaking metaphorically.

    “And gives me that same annoyed feeling like that tiny piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth that you just can’t get out.”

    Less graciously:
    That speck of poo stuck on the back of the toilet bowl that you just can’t piss off no matter how hard you try.

  80. BillyJoe7on 21 May 2011 at 7:45 am

    …oops, that last bit was not in reference to Jeremiah.

  81. nybgruson 21 May 2011 at 8:42 am

    hmmm…. fair enough billyjoe. In re-reading I would say I agree less, but certainly better than the drivel issuing forth from mike. I think I was more jazzed at making the point that, at the moment, science holds for a few different possibilities of what might be going on with the universe. I wouldn’t be so sure to say he doesn’t speak metaphorically based on the tone and content of his other posts.

  82. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 9:13 am

    @Steven Novella:

    # Steven Novellaon 20 May 2011 at 1:47 pm
    Mike wrote “Change in nature involves the reduction of potency to act in an essential series of changes. An essential series cannot entail infinite regress, so change in nature must entail an agent Who is pure act. That is Who we call God”

    “[Aquinas' First Way] is just another way of saying that the work energy of the universe is finite, which is a given. You are just saying that “magic man” made all the energy.”

    Aquinas’ First Way has nothing to do with “work energy”. It isn’t a physical argument, in the sense of an inductive scientific argument. It’s a logical argument, based on two precepts: 1) Change in nature is hyelemorphic (an elevation from potency to act) 2) The impossibility of infinite regress in a essential causual series.

    Elevation from potency to act means that substances (things in nature) have qualities that they actually are (acts) and qualites that they might have but don’t now (potency). A leaf in summer has acts (it is green, soft, attached to a tree, etc). It also has potencies (it could be yellow or brown or red, it could be brittle, it could have fallen off the tree) that it does not now have in summer but which it could have in the future (ie, the fall). All natural things have potency and act.

    Aristotle (and Aquinas and a host of other philosophers who have made the same argument) observed that potencies are what a thing doesn’t have, and that something is required to make the potency actual. (For leaves to turn color, the temperature has to change, etc). But the something else that actualizes the potency is itself a composite of potency and act, and must be actualized by something else to change. (ie, the air temperature is changed by the motion of the earth in relation to the sun). Aristotle noted that these actualizations of potency could not undergo infinite regress, because they are an essential series, meaning that the existence of each component of the causual series depends on the co-temporous existence of the other components. And if a essential series of causes requires an elevation of potency to act in each of it’s steps, there must be an act without potency at the origin of the series. This is what we call God.

    “That is absolutely a god-of-the-gaps argument.”

    It’s a rigorous logical argument. The only “gap’ is in your understanding of it.

    More to come.

  83. BillyJoe7on 21 May 2011 at 9:13 am

    nybgrus,

    “I wouldn’t be so sure to say he doesn’t speak metaphorically based on the tone and content of his other posts.”

    No, I think he is serious about the conscious, purposeful universe.
    And I suspect there will be a quantum connection in there somewhere.
    I am willing to be proved wrong though.

  84. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 9:30 am

    @Steven Novella

    “And it doesn’t solve the alleged problem – saying that magic man is magic does not make the problem of where the energy came from go away. It is all a vast semantic game passing itself off as logic.”

    The First Way is explicitly a way to avoid a “magic man”. It is a way to explain natural change and remain true to logic. It is the materialist/atheist creation myths that envoke “magic”- the universe just is, stuff just happens, stop asking why.

    “And as others have pointed out – deconstructed and dispensed with long ago by actual philosophers.”

    The Prime Mover argument has never been successfully refuted, and it’s surprising how few serious philosophers have actually tried (it is recognized as a very strong argument). The two most prominent efforts at refutation are Hume’s (he asserted that the universe itself is the ground of existence, which is not only wrong- as Aquinas had already shown in the Third Way- but actually address non of the actual issues of natural change raised by the Prime Mover argument). Kant used a more sophisticated approach by suggesting that the creation of the universe is noumenal, meaning outside of our sensory comprehension and thus not subject to rational scrutiny, but he made two errors in doing so: 1) The same argument could be applied as well to any component of the universe, which would invalidate science and reason 2) The Prime Mover argument, as I have pointed out, has nothing to do with the creation of the universe. Aristotle/Aquinas assumed an infinite past. It is an argument about the nature of change here and now.

    The Prime Mover argument has never been cogently refuted.

    “What I am saying is that cosmologists are approaching the question of where the energy of the universe came from from a scientific point of view, and it is not a hopeless question. We probably have to unite quantum mechanics with general relativity before we can really answer the question. But there are viable hypotheses.”

    Your word salad has nothing to do with the Prime Mover argument.

    “The bottom line is that there is no logical reason that there cannot be an answer. But first you have to free yourself at least a little bit from the classical frame of reference (the frame that Aquinas was restricted to). The answer is not there.

    To agree with you I’d have to free myself from logic. If you want an accessible introduction to the classical argument, Ed Feser’s “Aquinas” is a good start. You could save yourself a lot of embarassment.

  85. Froissarton 21 May 2011 at 10:19 am

    I’ve been using the terms “scientific viewpoint and religious viewpoint” just to be nice. But after a while I get irritated at the false equivalency implied by those terms (and the “non-overlapping magisteria” stuff), and feel like just calling it “reality and make-believe”. Being a fiction writer, I love make-believe, but I live in reality, and people need to remember the difference.

  86. davidsmithon 21 May 2011 at 10:42 am

    OK, so I’m still unclear why some people here think science requires a materialist metaphysic. Here is a paper on a scientific approach to the mind/body problem that proposes “conscious realism”:

    http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/ConsciousRealism2.pdf

    This suggests to me that, in prinicple, you do not need to be a materialist to use science as a method of finding out certain things about reality.

  87. mufion 21 May 2011 at 10:48 am

    As I recall, the Prime Mover (a.k.a. cosmological) argument was refuted in my college Philosophy 101 textbook. Some of us have taken the time to boil down those same basic objections for Mike12, but (surprise, surprise) he’s not buying it – and not (as far as I can tell) because of any superior grasp of logic.

    Of course, refuting a proof is not the same as refuting the belief that motivates it (which, in this case, is unfalsifiable), but then it hardly instills trust and confidence in the proof’s peddler. And when the peddler adopts an aggressive tone (e.g. “these idiots”), it’s nearly impossible to deal with him politely.

  88. tmac57on 21 May 2011 at 10:55 am

    Gratuitous insults
    Arcane language
    Obfuscatory arguments
    Fixation on ‘purpose’
    Arrogance

    Where have we seen all this before on this blog?

  89. mufion 21 May 2011 at 11:47 am

    David, strictly speaking, I have to agree, in that the methodological assumptions underlying science are agnostic as far as metaphysics goes. That’s why Hawking’s statements on God and the meaning of life (or lack thereof) are not science. They’re just the personal opinions of someone who happens to be a world-renowned expert in theoretical physics and cosmology.

    That said, the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of those who wish for us to believe that Hawking’s personal opinion is somehow at odds with his scientific knowledge, and a heavy burden it is.

  90. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 11:53 am

    @davidsmith

    “OK, so I’m still unclear why some people here think science requires a materialist metaphysic…This suggests to me that, in prinicple, you do not need to be a materialist to use science as a method of finding out certain things about reality.”

    I agree. The fact is that all of modern science arose in a Aristotelian/Thomist/Judeo-Christian milieu. The great classical scientists (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Faraday, Maxwell, Pasteur, etc) were devout passionate Christians, people who athiests would label as ‘fundies’ and ‘IDiots’ today. Historically, atheism had nothing of substance to do with the rise of modern science. In the 20th Century , atheists have hijacked some fields of science (evolutionary biology,…) to advance their metaphysical agenda. Atheism- the metphysical belief that ‘”shit happens” is an adequate explanation of the universe’- is worthless to science. Why would the invocation of purposelessness and absence of intelligent agency in nature advance a project that aims to understand purpose and form in nature.

    “Atheist science” is nearly an oxymoron. As long as you believe that the universe has no Intelligence underpinning it, you aren’t doing science, you’re denying the very predicate of science.

    Of course, atheist scientists actually do seek to understand that Intelligence (that’s what science is), but they lack the introspective prowess or honesty to face up to it.

  91. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 12:14 pm

    @mufi

    “the methodological assumptions underlying science are agnostic as far as metaphysics goes.”

    No. The search for intelligible principles in nature presupposes intelligent agency at the ground of nature. Asserting atheism while doing science is like trying to understand a book while denying that the author exists. Science is predicated on the inference that Intelligent Agency is the ground of nature.

    If you really believe that nature is not the work of Intelligent Agency, why are you wasting your time looking for the manifestations of intelligence? And if you deny that natural laws are manifestations of intelligent agency, then you’ve never grappled with the mathematics that describes them. Apparently you believe that differential non-Euclidean geometry and matrix mechanics and integral calculus are just part of “shit happens”.

    An intellectually honest atheist (a rare beast) would merely maximize his pleasure and power. The Marquis de Sade, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pot Pot were at least consistent atheists.

    “That’s why Hawking’s statements on God and the meaning of life (or lack thereof) are not science.’

    Damn right. They’re not sufficiently coherent to be science or metaphysics.

    “That said, the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of those who wish for us to believe that Hawking’s personal opinion is somehow at odds with his scientific knowledge, and a heavy burden it is.”

    What’s this selective “burden of proof” shit? It’s remarkable how often you atheists insist that theists must bear all the burden of logical demonstration and evidence. What crap. You are obviously terrified of “proof”, because your metaphysics don’t withstand even cursory examination. ‘We don’t have to explain ourselves’ won’t get you very far.

    But you don’t get to decide who bears the “burden of proof”. The reality is that we all are accountable for our opinions, and we all have a responsibility to give a rational account for the ground for our beliefs. You’re starting in a deep hole.

  92. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 12:19 pm

    @mufi

    “As I recall, the Prime Mover (a.k.a. cosmological) argument was refuted in my college Philosophy 101 textbook.”

    The atheist desiderata:

    ‘Keep up the passionate search for truth, unless you seem to remember something somebody said once…’

  93. MattD1980on 21 May 2011 at 12:26 pm

    “Gratuitous insults
    Arcane language
    Obfuscatory arguments
    Fixation on ‘purpose’
    Arrogance
    Where have we seen all this before on this blog?”

    This, I see interesting comments mixed with insults. I don’t care how bright you are, if you can’t make your point without insulting the other party you should not participate in debating your point.

  94. 2_wordson 21 May 2011 at 12:36 pm

    So your argument ends in paradox again. We are intelligent, meaning that the universe of which we are a part of is intelligent.

    This is self reflective, saying what is intelligent is us therefore there is intelligent agency.

    Meaning, reason, ration, differential non-Euclidean geometry and matrix mechanics and integral calculus are only part of our minds. We made them, they weren’t there before us. These are the shapes of our minds. Other minds other shapes.

    I find that it unravels the further you ask why. If there is a prime mover, why is it? Why not another before prime? Why invoke something outside of the universe and say that “which cannot be interacted with” is cause?

    Because it has to be, is not an answer. It is an attribute describe because you require it to answer your question.

    We know we are. Where is the certainty that there is something else?

  95. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 12:54 pm

    @Matt1980

    “I don’t care how bright you are, if you can’t make your point without insulting the other party you should not participate in debating your point.”

    Such laudable concern for propriety. How many times have you posted admonitions to new atheist blogs beseeching atheists to refrain from slander, viscious character assasination, actual professional destruction (Richard Sternberg, Guillermo Gonzalez, etc), invocation of legal force through federal litigation to silence critique of a scientific theory (Dover, Cobb County), ad nauseum?

    Do you read atheist blogs and their combox cesspools? As a Christian, I’ve struggled with how to respond to this unvarnished hate. I believe that it needs to be engaged, and fought, with reasoned argument always and with derision and insult if need be.

    There is a raging battle for our culture, and people’s lives and souls depend on its outcome. I’ve decided to fight, using whatever (honest and non-violent) tools I can muster. Other Christians fight in their own ways, which I greatly admire. Think of it as division of labor.

    If concern for civility consumes you, take your admonitions to the atheist hate sites. You’ll love the Pharyngula combox.

  96. Jeremiahon 21 May 2011 at 12:57 pm

    So BillyJoe7, you are singling me out to insult personally again?
    Poo in a toilet bowl? From a jerkoff down there in Mooroolbark talking out of his ass more likely. (Or where do you sit while looking at that young woman’s picture?)
    Casimir should have studied the vacuum in your brain perhaps, because a vacuum not only comes from something, it is theoretically impossible to create one that will represent a true state of nothingness. You should read your own citations before you cite them – or have someone read and explain them to you first in any case.
    And of course the universe is not conscious as in terms of human consciousness. It changes over time based on its own experience to put it simply for you. Or do you also feel somewhere in the dimness of your wit that there’s god of change out there?
    You do believe we are in a deterministic universe, right? But did you think that there had to be a god that determined it? That it was otherwise unable to determine things for itself?
    You see talk here of information in the universe but don’t get from it there’s something out there that is informative to something else? That there’s a reason for us to assume that information in the universe serves a purpose, without knowing exactly how that system works but at the same time not being silly enough to posit that it comes from a purposeful being made in our human image?

    These words from Dr. Novella to Mike apply equally to you:
    “Of course, you are free to make up whatever attributes you need god to have, without any falsifiability. That’s why its mental masturbation.”
    Or in your case we can dispense with the metaphor and get right down to the action.

  97. ccbowerson 21 May 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Jeremiah-

    What is the universe thinking now?

  98. Jeremiahon 21 May 2011 at 6:45 pm

    The answer would depend in part on what you were thinking when you asked that question. Which a teeny weeny portion of the universe experienced before your conscious apparatus did.

  99. nybgruson 21 May 2011 at 6:52 pm

    my, my, how this has degraded. The irony is thick and the smugness sickens me.

    Witty jabs and civil discussion are one thing, but the drivel ensuing forth from most of the previous dozen or so comments is in poor form and quite asinine. It smacks of ideology – not intellectual honesty.

    And mike – the burden of proof always lies with the one making the assertion. You cannot say “God is there, now disprove him.” Just like I, as a physician, cannot say “This person has breast cancer, now disprove me.” And I will further point out, that YOU were the first to be uncivil and hateful. I began by thoroughly and conscientously attcking your ARGUMENTS. You began the attack on PEOPLE. And many others here followed suit. For shame.

    Furthermore, trying to disprove atheism and science does NOT prove your theism. That is why a dicussion of the arguments is the way to have a rational discussion. But you have absolutely no interest in doing that.

    And I will close by saying that science is NOT interested in finding the intelligence or agency behind things. The very fact you would say that further shows you have no understanding of what science is. And I will also say that you can, indeed, examine and study a book and assume that there is no author. Through intellectually honest investigation, starting from the basis that there is no author, you should work your way through evidence to the fact that there is an author. Starting with the assumption that there was an author means that your work will be tainted and you will always find the “evidence” you need to prove authorship. That is the intellectual dishonesty of theism that you have been espousing.

    Say what you will at this point, I am done with this conversation.

  100. Jeremiahon 21 May 2011 at 7:59 pm

    >And I will close by saying that science is NOT interested in finding the intelligence or agency behind things.<
    Lee Smolin is a scientist and an atheist and is interested in finding the intelligence, if any, behind things. And my speculation does not go nearly as far as his does. But then he's smarter than the average bearer of good news here.

    Wikipedia:
    "The Life of the Cosmos is a 1997 book by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin. In the book, Smolin details his fecund universes theory which applies the principle of natural selection to the birth of universes. Smolin posits that the collapse of black holes could lead to the creation of a new universe. This daughter universe would have fundamental constants and parameters similar to that of the parent universe though with some changes, providing for both inheritance and mutations as required by natural selection. However, while there is no direct analogue to Darwinian selective pressures, it is theorised that a universe with "unsuccessful" parameters will reach heat death before being able to reproduce, meaning that certain universal parameters become more likely than others."

  101. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 8:32 pm

    @nybgrus

    “my, my, how this has degraded. The irony is thick and the smugness sickens me…It smacks of ideology – not intellectual honesty.”

    Nybgrus- here’s a quote from you: your first words in your first sentence in your first post in this string:

    “and yet in America, the religious right is fiercely pushing back scientific thought and progress..”

    No ideology there, heh, hypocrite.

    “And mike – the burden of proof always lies with the one making the assertion. You cannot say “God is there, now disprove him.” ”

    We both have equal burdens of proof. You’re not privileged, despite what you think. You’re just like the rest of us. We want to know the warrant for your beliefs.

    “And I will further point out, that YOU were the first to be uncivil and hateful. I began by thoroughly and conscientously attcking your ARGUMENTS. You began the attack on PEOPLE.”

    Nybgrus: here are the first words from the first paragraph of your first post after I posted my first comment. I had not yet addressed you in any way:

    “mike: if anyone is dishonest here, it is you. Only, I think you don’t realize because you are smugly content in your hafultin blather. Just because you can string big words into long sentences that are grammatically correct doesn’t mean your arguments are sound.”

    Who was it who “began the attack on PEOPLE.”? I’m laughing so hard it’s hard to type. Don’t you check your own posts before you make stuff up?

    “Furthermore, trying to disprove atheism and science does NOT prove your theism. That is why a dicussion of the arguments is the way to have a rational discussion. But you have absolutely no interest in doing that.”

    I’ve presented the most detailed arguments in this string.

    “And I will close by saying that science is NOT interested in finding the intelligence or agency behind things.”

    Science is not a person, so it has no ‘interests’ at all. You plainly have no interest in finding intelligent agency in nature. But your cognitive dissonance- the root dissonance in all atheist scientists- is that you seek to understand the intelligibility of nature while denying its intelligibility. You’re living a lie. If there is no Intelligence that grounds nature, science (the search for the intelligible in nature) is impossible.

    “And I will also say that you can, indeed, examine and study a book and assume that there is no author.”

    You can assume that, it seems, but no rational person can. All books have authors.

    “Through intellectually honest investigation, starting from the basis that there is no author, you should work your way through evidence to the fact that there is an author.”

    Do you actually read books starting with the presumption that there is no author? Do you really need to gather evidence as you read to convince you that someone wrote the book you’re reading?

    “Starting with the assumption that there was an author means that your work will be tainted and you will always find the “evidence” you need to prove authorship. That is the intellectual dishonesty of theism that you have been espousing.”

    Reading a book (an intelligible thing) with the presumption that an intelligence authored it isn’t “intellectual dishonesty”. It’s sanity.

    Say what you will at this point, I am done with this conversation.

    I will, and you were done a while ago.

  102. Jeremiahon 21 May 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Hold on a minute, Mike – I don’t speak for nybgrus (especially since he took a little swipe at me as well), but it’s patently not true when you state that “the root dissonance in all atheist scientists- is that you seek to understand the intelligibility of nature while denying its intelligibility.” I just gave you one example of an atheist scientist who does just that and there are many more. (I would say many more of us except that I happen to be, god help me, another one of those philosophical agnostics).

  103. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Jeremiah:

    Whence the intelligibility of nature?

  104. daedalus2uon 21 May 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Mike, Science is about figuring out the answers to questions, usually by doing experiments. If you ask questions that can’t be falsified, i.e. questions that don’t have a way to be answered even in principle, then you are not doing science.

    If you can’t define the terms that you are using, then the terms you are using don’t have meaning.

    The questions you are trying to answer about immaterial things are not deep questions. The truth is, they are not even shallow. They are not even wrong.

  105. Jeremiahon 21 May 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Whence? Well, Smolin and others would point out that if from anywhere it was from within the universe, just as from where any versions of your god would have had to come from.

  106. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 11:04 pm

    @ daedalus2u

    “Mike, Science is about figuring out the answers to questions, usually by doing experiments.”

    I was wondering about that.

    “If you ask questions that can’t be falsified, i.e. questions that don’t have a way to be answered even in principle, then you are not doing science.”

    I’m not doing science. I’m doing philosophy. And it’s answers that need to be falsifiable, not questions. Which answers (arguments) have I made that are not falsifiable?

    “If you can’t define the terms that you are using, then the terms you are using don’t have meaning.”

    Which terms? I try to be careful about definitions.

    “The questions you are trying to answer about immaterial things are not deep questions. The truth is, they are not even shallow. They are not even wrong.”

    Not deep, shallow, or wrong? What are they then?

    @Jeremiah

    “Well, Smolin and others would point out that if from anywhere it was from within the universe…”

    Martians?

    “just as from where any versions of your god would have had to come from.”

    No classical theology has ever asserted that God is from within nature. God is the ground of existence, creates nature, and holds nature in existence at every moment. He is not a thing in nature. Things in nature have existence distinct from existence. God’s essence is existence. (Thomism 101).

    The intelligibility of nature is a manifestation of His Intelligence.

  107. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Correction in penultimate paragraph above:

    …Things in nature have essence distinct from existence. God’s essence is existence. (Thomism 101).

  108. Jeremiahon 21 May 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Sorry, Mike, but I’ll take Smolin for the win in science, and
    Russell for the win in philosophy.

  109. Mike12on 21 May 2011 at 11:55 pm

    @Jeremiah:

    Smolin’s a superb scientist. When he starts doing philosophy, let me know.

    Russell was a brilliant man. His philosophy of mind (roughly neutral monism) was quite cogent and a favorite of mine, and a devastating critique of materialism. His Prinicipia was a masterpiece. Too bad about the dismantlement by Godel.

    He wrote on metaphysics, but his analysis of classical theistic arguments was jejune. He ‘refuted’ the First Cause argument (Aquinas’ Second Way) by asking “who caused God”. Grade-school stuff.

  110. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 12:02 am

    Again that was and is a first purpose argument, and the refutation was more along the lines that any gods would have to get their purpose from the universe rather the universe getting it from something that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

  111. Mike12on 22 May 2011 at 12:12 am

    Jeremiah

    “Again that was and is a first purpose argument, and the refutation was more along the lines that any gods would have to get their purpose from the universe rather the universe getting it from something that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

    Huh?

    The First Cause argument (Aquinas’ Second Way) is related to the Prime Mover argument. It address efficient causation rather than natural change. It is based on efficient (agent) causation, and it demonstrates the necessity of an uncaused First Cause because of the impossibility to a past infinite series of essential causes. The First Cause argument has nothing to do with a past finite universe (Aquinas assumed an eternal universe without beginning).

    To ask “who caused God” means that you (and Russell) don’t understand the argument, which is a logical argument that an Uncaused Cause must be the ground for causation in nature here and now.

    To ask “who caused God” isn’t a refutation of the First Cause argument. It’s a refutation of any claim that you understand the argument.

  112. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 12:46 am

    Sorry but the argument since Aristotle was and still is what gave us purpose.
    And primarily what caused who to have a purpose, and only secondarily who caused what. ‘Who’ being used to represent the gods that were made in human form – but if so by what if not other godlike human forms?

    And thus Russell’s question was that if the causer of purpose was a who, then wouldn’t there have had to be a who whose purpose was to cause it. Who, in case you didn’t get that part from Aquinas (or lost it in translation), still being used to represent a living god.

  113. 2_wordson 22 May 2011 at 2:27 am

    Uncaused cause is meaningless paradox. The “first without first,” “the variable un-varaible,” “the un-noun noun.”

    It is as if saying the “un-word word” or the “nothing un-nothing” has meaning.

    God’s essence is existence or god’s attribute is, is-ing, god’s fundamentality is fundamental, this is nonsense.

  114. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 3:35 am

    Nobody done never ‘splained it dat way afore! Me work be done here.

  115. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2011 at 5:18 am

    jeremiah,

    “So BillyJoe7, you are singling me out to insult personally again?
    Poo in a toilet bowl? ”

    You ALWAYS misunderstand things. My comment was a follow up to nybgrus’ comment and his comment was not about you and therefore neither was mine.
    I also specifically stated that that comment was not about you: …oops, that last bit was not in reference to Jeremiah.

    “Or where do you sit while looking at that young woman’s picture?”

    Now you are just assuming things.
    She is not a young woman. And nowhere did I state that she was. In fact she has two teenage children. In case you have made any more assumptions, she is not a buxom beauty, that is not why I am attracted to her. I love the way she smiles. I love the way she talks. I love the way she interacts with me. We are both married. We have some innocent fun and we leave it at that. And she doesn’t know about my fantasies about her and she never will.
    Please leave the subject alone now.

    But this leads my to another point:
    From you misunderstandings and unjustified assumptions here on the blog, I remain convinced that you misunderstand the ideas that you attribute to people who you regard as your mentors. An example is that quote from Lee Smolin – in no way does that quote support your misconception about an intelligent, conscious, purposeful universe. And, even if he does believe that (apart from that quote), it is still a preposterous idea.

    “Casimir should have studied the vacuum in your brain perhaps, because a vacuum not only comes from something…”

    You are missing the point. It demonstrates that a vacuum is not nothing – that it is a sea of virtual particles coming in and out of existence. Therefore your statement that something cannot come form nothing is demonstrably wrong.

    “These words from Dr. Novella to Mike apply equally to you:
    “Of course, you are free to make up whatever attributes you need god to have, without any falsifiability. That’s why its mental masturbation.””

    It seems you have yet another misunderstanding.
    I will state it clearly: I am an atheist. I base this on two things.
    - The universe looks the same with or without god – because science has dispensed with all but the deist god.
    - Ockham’s Razor.

  116. Shaneon 22 May 2011 at 6:20 am

    It seems to me reading the mind bending blather coming from mike that there are good reasons why physics mathematics chemistry biology and all the other sciences have been so spectacularly successful in describing the universe not philosophy.

    mike seems unable to accept that knowledge has moved on and its the 21st century not the 13th.

    I think its accepted now that accurate and credible documentation of the universe cannot be achieved by internal rationalisation. You have to get off your arse and do something. I think even the hardest philosphers realise that now. You can quote aristotle and aquinas all you like – but without tested observational evidence you just have as Steve said mental masturbation. Give me the equations every time.

    Pause for another screed of scientifically irrelevent babble – really mike its 13th century homilies based on a prescientific framework that is irrelevent here – seriously we dont care its meaningless and cannot compete with what we now know about the universe.

    If you really think that internal logic can describe everything perhaps you should consider moving to vulcan. Come up with a little maths and I might bother listening.

  117. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 6:46 am

    Me: “a vacuum not only comes from something, it is theoretically impossible to create one that will represent a true state of nothingness.”
    BJ: “You are missing the point. It demonstrates that a vacuum is not nothing – that it is a sea of virtual particles coming in and out of existence.”
    Me: Not nothing because a vacuum lacks air but we can’t make it lack energy? Not what I said then?
    BJ: “Therefore your statement that something cannot come form nothing is demonstrably wrong.”
    Me: So a vacuum containing energy is not nothing, yet when we see evidence that the energy could not be sucked out of the jarhead precisely because it was not nothing, that proves that something came from nothing?
    BJ: Well not exactly but almost.

    The rest of what you want to think I said but didn’t isn’t worth the effort to explain again and again and again. But yes I think you secretly do believe in god precisely because you don’t believe that the universe itself has useful information, yet found the information somewhere to create us. Exactly parallel to what Mike12 believes.

    Well I’ll leave off now. Time to run around the local lake, cycle along the trail, and walk across the range. Have some innocent fun and all that in case the wife is reading this.

  118. ccbowerson 22 May 2011 at 9:51 am

    “mike seems unable to accept that knowledge has moved on and its the 21st century not the 13th.”

    Well he rarely looks past the 13th century, because then he’d then have to change his worldview. Knowledge was much safer back then… a little knowledge and logic mixed with a large dose of belief and magic can explain all you want to know. Unfortunately we have progressed/learned much since then, in philosophy as well as science.

  119. ccbowerson 22 May 2011 at 9:56 am

    “I will state it clearly: I am an atheist. I base this on two things.
    - The universe looks the same with or without god – because science has dispensed with all but the deist god.
    - Ockham’s Razor.”

    I agree, and think it really is that simple. I’m not sure how people can have countless discussion and create book after book on this topic with such little progress. Apparently most people hold onto ideologies so steadfastly that the most change/progress occur as people die, and the next generations develop their own ideas.

  120. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2011 at 10:03 am

    Jeremiah,

    That fact that, in a vacuum, virtual particles flit in and out of existence – that, by itself – means that something can come from nothing. It doesn’t matter how that vacuum was achieved. In fact, a vacuum is not even required. Everywhere particles are flitting in and out of existence. A vacuum is used in the Casimir effect because otherwise the effect couldn’t be measured.

    And thanks for making assumptions about how my wife would react.
    You’ve got no idea.

  121. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 11:56 am

    I have an idea why you went to such great pains to explain how your fun and games relationship with the part time employee was innocent. The after-fantasy activities were only yours, so what’s the problem. Never mind the woman’s husband either. He knows she needs the work.

    In any case, BillyJoe, this was the worst example of a scientific explanation ever:
    “Everywhere particles are flitting in and out of existence. A vacuum is used in the Casimir effect because otherwise the effect couldn’t be measured.”
    “that, by itself – means that something can come from nothing.”

    However I suspect it represents instead what Einstein described in this formula: E = mc2

  122. mufion 22 May 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Stepping back a bit, I came across this short summary of the cosmological argument, which I found poignant – this part, in particular:

    Physicist and writer Michio Kaku was among the first to point out that the fundamental premise of the need for a “first mover” is defied in practical particle physics.

    The Law of the Conservation of Energy states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system stays constant over time – an example would be gas molecules moving around inside a sealed container. They will continue to move around and bounce off the walls of the container permanently, regardless of the passage of time, without needing anyone or anything to cause this – in other words, there is no need for a “first mover” or cause.

    While I understand that scientific laws or principles like these work in descriptive and predictive terms, I also find them “unintelligible” in the sense that they defy my naive intuitions about how the world is supposed to work, which are probably not so different from Mike12′s. I suspect that the main difference between us, however, is that I try to defer to the science on these matters (i.e. all of it, as opposed to some cherry-picked, ideological-spin version), and that includes what cognitive science has to say about our evolutionary origins and its likely influence on our culture – both religion and (a priori) philosophy (e.g. see agency detection).

  123. mufion 22 May 2011 at 12:07 pm

    PS: Apologies for the malformed HTML, which rendered my entire comment a link – although I should point out that the “agency detection” text is actually a separate link.

  124. Mike12on 22 May 2011 at 1:24 pm

    @mufi,

    Kaku is wrong. There is no ‘first mover’ argument in classical theism. There is a Prime Mover argument (from Aristotle and from Aquinas’ First Way) and there is a First Cause argument (Aquinas’ Second Way). Both arguments have nothing to do with creation in the past; both assume an infinite past.

    Both arguments address the need for a Prime Mover/First Cause to explain change/existence here and now, and molecules bouncing around inside a container are just as much in need of causual explanation in the here and now as is anything else.

    Kaku (and you) don’t understand even the rudiments of the arguments you claim to refute. It would be quite analogous to a guy claiming that the theory of relativity doesn’t apply to him because he has no relatives.

    You should be embarrassed by faux-arguments like Kaku’s. It’s a good example of why, when I hear that a ‘scientist’ has proclaimed some philosophical truth, I reflexively burst out laughing. Like Pavlov’s dog, I’m conditioned.

  125. mufion 22 May 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I recognize no “need” to “explain change/existence here and now”, although I recognize such a desire. As I sometimes tell my children (quoting Jagger/Richards): “you can’t always get what you want.”

  126. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 1:56 pm

    “Like Pavlov’s dog, I’m conditioned.” True that.

  127. ccbowerson 22 May 2011 at 2:24 pm

    “…when I hear that a ‘scientist’ has proclaimed some philosophical truth, I reflexively burst out laughing. Like Pavlov’s dog, I’m conditioned.”

    Plus these scientists are still alive. If only they were born before the 1300s they could really know something.

  128. Mike12on 22 May 2011 at 3:11 pm

    “Plus these scientists are still alive. If only they were born before the 1300s they could really know something.”

    Good example of why theistic arguments have always prevailed, and will always prevail. Atheism has no intellectual depth. “Shit happens” isn’t a worldview that can withstand even the slightest scrutiny.

    When atheist arguments presented by leading ‘scientists’ are shown to be utterly without even a shred of rigor, the best you guys can do is proclaim: ‘your argument is wrong because it is old’.

    Game. Set. Match.

  129. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Mike, your argument is wrong because you’ve never made one that isn’t some out of context misquote of someone else’s ancient revelation that you in turn have added your limited ability to understand the abstract nature of an analogous example to.

  130. ccbowerson 22 May 2011 at 3:58 pm

    “Good example of why theistic arguments have always prevailed, and will always prevail. Atheism has no intellectual depth. “Shit happens” isn’t a worldview that can withstand even the slightest scrutiny. ”

    Actually that wasn’t intended to have depth… it is mockery, and is reserved for those not being intellectually honest enough to have discussions that progress. I have read the comments here, and it is clear that you are not open to greater understanding but are on an elaborate quest of confirmation bias.

    Its not simply that your “arguments are old,” they are not well aged… they are stale.

    “Game. Set. Match.”

    Further evidence that you are not interested in furthering your understanding, but “winning” so that you can lessen your own cognitive dissonance when your worldview clashes with reality.

  131. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Jeremiah,

    “I have an idea why you went to such great pains to explain how your fun and games relationship with the part time employee was innocent.”

    Go back and look at the context.
    Remember I was responding to Petrossa and I was explaining how normals can experience what petrossa indicated was a big positive of being autistic. In fact, he said somethng to the effect that autistics are a more highly developed life form better suited to the environment in which humans find themselves today..

    “Never mind the woman’s husband either. He knows she needs the work.”

    You are forgetting that this is only a fantasy.

    “However I suspect it represents instead what Einstein described in this formula: E = mc2″

    Wrong theory. It’s the Heisenberg Uncertaintly Principle of Quantum Physics.

  132. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Baloney. You said it “means that something can come from nothing.” But it only showed the ability of the more elusive form of energy to convert itself to a more measurable mass, i.e., mass came from something that was already here and not by any stretch of a normal imagination was it nothing.

    The Heisenberg uncertainty principle “states precise inequalities that constrain certain pairs of physical properties.” (Wikiquote)
    That also has nothing to do with something from nothing. If anything, it’s like a “how did that get there from here” conundrum.
    E = mc2 represents the “how did that turn into this” conundrum.
    Not sure of course that you can tell the difference but I tried.

    As to the context under which you revealed your “self servicing in secret” secrets, that’s quite clear. In the context of the requirement to keep it secret, it’s also clear you’re not in keeping with the program. Establishing the basis for a plea of innocence is always a good idea. It’s the basis itself that comes a bugger.

  133. nybgruson 22 May 2011 at 7:20 pm

    had to jump into between billyjoe and jeremiah here:

    1) whatever fantasy blather is going on is utterly off topic and pointless

    2) Heisenbergs uncertainty principle states that the more accurately you know the position of a particle the less you can know about its momentum (i.e. energy) and vice versa. As you take the resolution of inspection to quantum scales, you are, by definition looking at vastly tinier and tinier spaces. At the resolution of a Planck length, which is considered to be the smallest unit of length intelligible in the universe, the precision of spatial resolution is so great that the precision of the momentum must be ludicrously low – to the point where energies can be quite large. Furthermore, if you were to inspect a region on space the size of a Planck length and there was actually nothing there, then you would know the momentum and location precisely, thus the equations dictate particles would spontaneously form from nothing as a particle and corresponding anti-particle. This would not violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics since the total energy of the system would remain constant since they would mutually annihilate each other on the order of picoseconds. However, since this is going on, the average energy density of empy space is greater than zero and since E=MC^2 that is equivalent to mass. Hence, 90% of the mass of a proton is actually from the average energy density of the empty space between the quarks that comprise it.

    Thus, via the Casimir effect, something not only can come from nothing but it must and always does. Now, if this process was always completely symmetrical and always lead to equal creation and destruction processes, then there would remain nothing at all times – nothing more than an average energy density. However, as was demonstrated back in the 70′s CP asymmetry actually occurs, meaning that one end of the process can outweigh the other (this is once again through statistical uncertainty of quantum processes). It has further been calculated that if the symmetry were off by 0.00001% (i.e 49.99999 vs 50.00001)* then that would be enough asymmetry to generate universes and mass wholesale from nothing – while stil conserving the 2nd law of thermodynamics since the average energy density across the system (the universe) would be the same before and after, it is merely local phenomenon (on universal scales, of course) that exhibit an overall tendency for mass creation. Why would the process favor matter over anti-matter? It wouldn’t. But whatever universe we existed in we would call the substance we are made of “matter” and the other stuff “anti-matter” since they are entirely equivalent, merely opposite.

    *this was written completely off the top of my head from my previous readings. Please frorgive any minor mistakes, including the correct number of sig figs for th CP asymmetry. My point was to quickly relate the gestalt of the theory, not to be quantitatively accurate.

  134. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 8:06 pm

    nybgrus, that’s simply twaddle as a proposition that refers to a universe that had no substantive existence before the bang where something allegedly spontaneously arose from the nothing that was there before. The universe in that scenario was not a something claimed somehow to have been previously reduced to nothing. Not some part of space that appears to be a void in a sea of something. The reference, both in theology and science, is to the nonexistence of anything at all before there was a universe.
    This concept of the impossibility of nothingness which left us with the impossibility of there never having been a lack of something was a big problem for the physicist, Wheeler, that I mentioned earlier and is still a big problem for physicists.
    If you don’t understand that I don’t care, and if billyJoe7 believes you here, you haven’t done him any favors. I don’t care there either.

  135. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 8:14 pm

    From Wikipedia:

    “Wheeler has speculated that reality is created by observers in the universe. “How does something arise from nothing?”, he asks about the existence of space and time (Princeton Physics News, 2006).”

    There’s much more about this elsewhere, but just to show I don’t make shit up, that was from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Archibald_Wheeler

  136. tmac57on 22 May 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Wheeler has speculated that reality is created by observers in the universe.

    Is the implication from this that the ‘observers’ were not part of ‘reality’? There existed a universe and observers first,who then somehow created reality?What is the distinction between universe and reality in this view?

  137. nybgruson 22 May 2011 at 8:46 pm

    i dont say you make shit up. I say that I disagree with how you interpret and apply. You were wrong about the concept of something from nothing – that has been empirically proven. But rather than go down some path and say “this is the way it is” you must be humble enough to say “this is a way that could work and is supported by evidence.” I was not saying my explanation was “the way” but it is one that makes sense to me and is supported by the evidence to date. Dont fall into the same trap as mike by hanging on to one reference that supports your thesis – in his case pre-scientific thinkers of antiquity and in yours a single theoretical physicist. Wheeler’s speculations are exactly that – speculation. He may indeed be right, but parsimony and significant other empirical evidence make me think he is likely not. I do not claim to have a deep and intricate understanding of this, and I do not claim that wheeler is definitely wrong. But I have actually read a dozen or so books on the topic, dated from the 1970s to ones written just a few years ago (and numerous talks as well). The qualitative shift in thinking that I have come to understand from that leads me to think that the theory most likely to be correct involves much of what I have written about and the body of work in theoretical physics is leaving Wheeler’s speculation behind. I personally think there is actually a place for Wheeler’s speculation in the theory, but it is one of influence and change in a dynamic universe – not one of origins or fundamental architecture.

    I do not deny there is debate to be had about the finer points (and even many of the major ones as well) of this and indeed the evidence is not there to definitively go one route or another. However, your claims about the casimir effect, something from nothing, etc were demonstrably wrong, which is why I jumped in.

  138. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 9:31 pm

    My claims are not wrong at all because you are using a definition of “nothing” that is temporal and relative to something missing and I’m using it to refer to a theoretical and universal state of non-existence.

    And pray tell what is the nothing that the casimir effect makes reference to? A state of absolute non existence that could nevertheless exist in a sea of existence? A state of absolute non information from which information was compelled to be released from?

    There is no way that anything can work that I can conceive of that can make something exist from the absolute absence of an iota of its prior existence.
    I can only conceive of a change in the manner of existence, not of the fact of it per se.

    Your style of debate is not mine. I’m not interested in winning through use of trickery by obfuscation or other tactics of what eventually comes down to a lying contest.
    If you think you’ve fooled me to the point of some concession that I’ve indeed been snookered by not recognizing the double entendre, I can admit I didn’t think you would seriously consider using that as a tactic, but I seem to have been wrong.

  139. nybgruson 22 May 2011 at 9:53 pm

    no “tactics” here jeremiah. You are the one getting into an argument over the semantics of “nothing.”

    The fact that you think I have made some “double entendre” in order to “snooker” you into a false concession speaks volumes. If you think I am wrong about something, and wish to discuss/debate the topic further then address the specifics of what you think I have mis-stated.

    So to answer your question – the “nothing” is the colloquial “nothing” – the lack of material form. The science I have cited above shows that indeed there is no such thing as “nothing” since everywhere, on every level there is an average energy density to what would be colloquially considered “empty space.” It is by extrapolations of this facts and novel understanding of the true nature of the universe that theoretical physicists postulate that local variations in statistical uncertainty can lead to the generation of what we colloquially refer to as “something.”

    So if anyone here is trying to obsfuscate, it seems you are, since you are settling in on the semantics of an argument, when the answers to your questions are patently obvious, especially in context of the conversation. Mike’s claim is that god created the something from nothing. Quantum mechanics dictates that the concept of “nothing” must be a relative one and that there is no such thing as “true nothingness.” Thus, the “something” we see that mike wishes to ascribe to god is in fact merely a manifestation of the inherent way in which the universe operates. Thus, “something” has come from “nothing” is a reasonable refutation of such arguments, without necessitating getting into whether we both understand that “true nothing” is simply not the nature of the universe.

    I would have thought such base rhetorical tactics were beyond you, Jeremiah. The science I cited should have been sufficient to understand what sort of semantics were in play, unless you yourself simply wanted to have another conversation of purely imaginary concepts like Mike has engaged in.

  140. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 10:42 pm

    You see, nybgrus, you’ve just done exactly what you claim you never do. You’ve been, to put it kindly, disingenuous about the reasons for presenting any of the ‘science’ that you cited.

    You now state, if not admit, that the “nothing” is the colloquial “nothing” – the lack of material form. But you don’t admit that you must have known that the discussion was about the same nothing that Mike was talking about, the true nothingness that required his god to intervene in our creation. The exact thing that BillyJoe7 claimed can be done experimentally, etc.

    Of course I knew what sort of semantics were in play. Otherwise you’d have had no basis for your claim that I was wrong, while at the same time knowing that it wasn’t MY contention that I was wrong about, it was somehow, by your deft use of rationalization, yours.
    The last thing I want to have however with you and Mike is a conversation of purely imaginary concepts. It turns out you’re a lot more alike tactically than either of you might want or hope to be.

  141. Mike12on 22 May 2011 at 10:48 pm

    @nybgrus

    “Mike’s claim is that god created the something from nothing.”

    Yes. That is what “creation’ means.

    “Quantum mechanics dictates that the concept of “nothing” must be a relative one and that there is no such thing as “true nothingness.” ”

    Quantum mechanics says nothing about ‘nothing’. The Casimir effect and the various arguments by physicists claiming to explain creation without God involve quantum vacuum states, which are not nothing. A quantum vacuum contains non-zero energy and electromagnetic waves and particles going in and out of existence. It is not a void. It is not nothing, and the behavior of energy/matter in it is governed by quantum laws. Any particle that emerges from a quantum vacuum did not emerge from nothing. It emerged from a low energy quantum state, which is very much something.

    The appearance of particles/waves in a quantum vacuum is not the creation of something from nothing.

    However, something can be created from nothing (no-thing), literally. God creates from nothing because God is ‘no-thing’- not a thing. He is Existence Itself, and is not in the category of “things”, or in any category.

    The classical cosmological arguments (at least Aquinas 1 and 2) demonstrate the logical necessity for pure act (a Being whose essence is existence) at the root of any essential causal chain in nature. The quantum vacuum has noting to do with the cosmological arguments.

    “Thus, the “something” we see that mike wishes to ascribe to god is in fact merely a manifestation of the inherent way in which the universe operates.”

    ‘The universe does what the universe does- shit happens’- atheism’s creation myth.

    “Thus, “something” has come from “nothing” is a reasonable refutation of such arguments, without necessitating getting into whether we both understand that “true nothing” is simply not the nature of the universe.”

    Obviously “true nothing is simply not the nature of the universe”, because the universe is something, not nothing.

    Atheism is so deep.

  142. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Jesus, here I’ve got Mike correctly explaining what the casimeri effect consists of and at the same time spouting nonsense about what nothingness does not have in its imaginary playbook, which would be some iota of resistance to the machinations of his God.

    Little minds and hobgoblins will be the subject of my Sunday sermon.

  143. Mike12on 22 May 2011 at 11:11 pm

    @Jeremiah

    “You see, nybgrus, you’ve just done exactly what you claim you never do. You’ve been, to put it kindly, disingenuous about the reasons for presenting any of the ‘science’ that you cited.
    You now state, if not admit, that the “nothing” is the colloquial “nothing” – the lack of material form. But you don’t admit that you must have known that the discussion was about the same nothing that Mike was talking about, the true nothingness that required his god to intervene in our creation. ”

    Exactly. Much of the scientific ‘proof’ for the irrelevance/non-existence of God is disingenuous in just this way. Definitions are made fungible to serve rhetorical ends. Scientists who resort to such tactic are just dishonest.

    The classical theist arguments involve meticulous definitions and meticulous logic. Little of any of modern science really touches these arguments, which are logical demonstrations, not empirical inductions. You may disagree with the logic or with the definitions, but to do so credibly you must understand and address the logic and the definitions. Virtually no scientist/atheist in this very public debate comes anywhere near addressing the real cosmological arguments.

    “The last thing I want to have however with you and Mike is a conversation of purely imaginary concepts. It turns out you’re a lot more alike tactically than either of you might want or hope to be.”

    You might want to elaborate on the similarities between our tactics. I don’t see it.

    And all concepts are “purely imaginary” (concepts aren’t physical things). I guess you mean that my concepts have little bearing on science. That may be true of the cosmological arguments, which are logical, not empirical, demonstrations. If is most certainly not true of classical metaphysics in general, especially hylemorphism and the doctrine of the four causes, which forms by far the most satisfactory framework for understanding nature, especially quantum mechanics.

    If Aristotle were alive and encountered quantum mechanics, he wouldn’t think it strange at all. Quantum probability states (potency) collapse of the wave function (reduction from potency to act), quantum entanglement (final cause), and the ineffability of matter at the quantum level (prime matter) were all basic Aristotelian concepts.

  144. Jeremiahon 22 May 2011 at 11:22 pm

    “You might want to elaborate on the similarities between our tactics. I don’t see it. ”

    You both are addicted to rationalization as a means of determining the truth, which is motivated by the premise that whoever can be made to look the wrongest makes the other the more right by comparison. Adversarial sophistry some would call it.

  145. nybgruson 22 May 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I’m not having a conversation with you mike, so bugger off.

    Jeremiah: I think I understand your point. It is a fine nuance that I have missed. And I believe now we have gotten to the crux and the final extent of the discussion.

    In essence the question arises “from whence did the background energy density arise?” That is simply a question that science has yet to answer. I concede that my tack in addressing the topic was not clear – but I assure you it was not intentionally disengenious. My opinion on the matter is that the fundamental architecture of the universe is a probabalistic one and that for some fraction of time, on the order of pico- or yacto-seconds, true nothingness does exist. In fact, it is by the extension of the Casimir phenomenon that I derive this opinion. The notion is that there is an average energy density – but that there will, by definition be highs and lows. Just as you cannot say there is true empty space since that would be violating Heisenberg uncertainty, you also cannot say that there is a particle of any definite energy state for the same reasons. Thus we can only speak of probability functions, which indicates that there must at some given instance be a region of “true nothingness” which would then subsequently give rise to the “something” of quantum foam – hence my assertion of “something” from “nothing.” Otherwise it make no sense to speak of quantum foam or probability (and to my knowledge the ends of the quantum wave functions do not approach zero or infinity asymptotically). Hence my assertions are not based in imaginary concepts but application of empirical data. And it is thus that “something” must arise from “absolute absence of an iota of its prior existence.” Hawking radiation further provides a framework for such a concept in which these particles arise from “true nothingness” at the edge of an event horizon and that by virtue of one entagled particle being within the limit of the event horizon and the other without, then the material (i.e. physically detectable – at least theoretically) substance of the universe increases. The black hole then correspondingly decreases in mass/energy to balance the average energy density.

    From a recent (end of last year) discussion from Lawrence Krauss, it seems that there is now empirical data demonstrating the shape of the universe to be flat and the average energy density to be…. zero. Thus, when you examine the whole of the system (the universe) you find that it contains no net energy. But when you examine portions of it, you find things like galaxies and planets. And when you look at the tiniest sections of it, you find a quantum foam that belies the inherent architecture of the unverse – probability fluctuation. But once again, there are small regions that must be at zero and (according to Krauss) the whole of the system is zero as well. Hence, “something” from “true nothing.”

    The likes of mike would wish to assert then that it is god that has constructed and defined the architecture of the universe. That is something that neither I nor science can disprove, since by the very definitions proferred the god of nothingness is nothing and interacts not with the universe. Parsimony dictates ending the speculation at the fabric of the cosmos, at least until further evidence shows otherwise. Of course, theists are not content with that, they would rather say “goddidit!” whenever science has yet to fill in the answer. And then further create fanciful notions of said god being completely immaterial and of nothing and yet somehow managing to take a bit of time out to impregnate some random bronze aged woman.

    Theism is so deep.

    Further speculation is the idea of local parts of the cosmos spawning universes under the appropriate conditions, with each universe having slightly different parameters by chance. This of course, is speculation and the most I can say is it seems to make sense to me.

    The only thing we can say for certain is that this data shows us a few things:

    1) the overall system is a net zero
    2) local areas are much more than zero
    -ergo something from nothing
    3) there is no need to invoke god to explain these facts
    4) god may indeed exist and be the basis for it, but most certainly not the specific god(s) described by any religion

    I assure you, I am not attempting to be intentionally disingenuous. This is not my field, it is a hobby of mine, and I am trying to study medicine at the same time as I write things, so anything that may come off that way is either a genuine fault in my understanding or an accidental slip due to writing these in between the myriad other things I am currently doing.

  146. Mike12on 22 May 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Jeremiah:

    “Adversarial sophistry some would call it.”

    Adversarial, yes. Sometimes it helps to bring out the truth. Sophistry, no. Sophistry is obfuscation for the hell of it, which is most definitely not what I’m doing. I’m trying very hard to be clear about very hard things.

    There is an interesting way in which I look at the modern applications of classical metaphysics, which stems mostly from Aristotle.

    Aquinas baptized Aristotle by bring his remarkable natural system into the Christian worldview.

    Quantum mechanics has quantified Aristotle, bringing measurement to Aristotle’s qualitative notions of matter, form, potency, act, and final cause. Instead of merely saying that a substance is raised from potency to act (a characteristic Aristotelian phrase), we say that one of a subatomic particle’s quantum states is actualized with the collapse of the quantum waveform.

    What is profoundly disturbing about modern science is that very few scientists are sufficiently philosophically literate to understand any of this, and yet they don’t hesitate to offer utterly incompetent metaphysical conclusions from their science. And of course most of the public understands neither the science nor the philosophy, so when some (often second-rate — cf Dawkins) scientist who has written a book claims that his science disproves God, the public doesn’t have the rudimentary background to see that the scientist is incompetent.

    A sad state of public affairs, and deeply embarrassing for science. Earlier generations of scientists had more insight, generally speaking. Heisenberg and Schroodinger were quite astute on metaphysics, and Heisenberg openly affirmed the Aristotelian framework for his work.

  147. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 12:09 am

    @nybgrus:

    “I’m not having a conversation with you mike, so bugger off.”

    Don’t take it hard. We all make fools of ourselves on occasion.

    1) the overall system is a net zero
    2) local areas are much more than zero
    -ergo something from nothing

    The “overall” voltage (not RMS voltage) in a sinusoidal ac circuit is zero. Stick a fork in your electrical wall socket, and you’ll get “something from nothing.”

    There is no part of the universe that is nothing.

    “3) there is no need to invoke god to explain these facts”

    Yes, if ‘these facts’ include change, cause, existence, gradation of being, and teleology in the universe.

    “4) god may indeed exist and be the basis for it, but most certainly not the specific god(s) described by any religion”

    There’s truth in that. God is not ‘describable’ in any way but by analogy. It should come as no surprise that it is exceedingly difficult to attack labels to the ground of existence. And God’s Incarnation is knowable only by revelation, not by philosophical demonstration.

  148. Jeremiahon 23 May 2011 at 12:24 am

    nybgrus, I’m familiar with most of these arguments and the fault I find with them is the same as physicists themselves find with the limitations of their present methodology. The use of mathematical modeling for example tells us a lot about the material aspects of the universe, what does what to which and when and how and with what measure of consistency and with attention to what forces and internal strategies, and even to what extent the elements are endowed with some mechanical version of anticipation and a consequent proposed ability to evolve accordingly – and especially what can be predicted with remarkable accuracy as to what our modeling has informed us to expect in all these areas in future. And what we would have expected in their past.
    But it doesn’t tell us what it hasn’t found that can’t be found with extrapolation from our means of measurement alone. And for the most part it doesn’t tell us nearly enough about the why of things, such as for example why things such as energetic particles are constantly in motion, and never have been known on their own initiative to rest. And we do have to ask if there’s a logically conceivable reason, or we wouldn’t be doing the philosophy that gives us our motivation for doing science to begin with.
    And the biggest problem we seem at least to me to have is the understanding through our means of measurement of the truest nature or strategic purposes, if any, of ‘energy.’ Or as some would like to have it, information that passes when it suits itself as energy and when it further suits itself expands its powers and confounds our expectations as to the possibilities involved accordingly. Such as having what appears to be the potential to make what seems to be an unimaginable amount of something from what had seemed to be next to an unimaginable nothing.
    End of extemporaneous rant.

  149. BillyJoe7on 23 May 2011 at 12:32 am

    Jeremiah,

    “In the context of the requirement to keep it secret, it’s also clear you’re not in keeping with the program.”

    As I hyave said several times now, you just cannot seem to understand what you read.
    All I said is that I’m not going to inform my employee of my fantasy.

    “Establishing the basis for a plea of innocence is always a good idea. It’s the basis itself that comes a bugger.”

    So now you are quilty of a logical fallacy (equivocation).

    I used the word “innocence” in characterising my reply to Petrossa. I “innocently” gave a personal example. That meaning of ‘innocent” is quite different from the one you’re using. I meant that I didn’t expect someone to run with it like you have, and to pretend to know who I am, and to use that as some sort of threat.

    As for the “something from nothing” argument, nybgrus has said enough already.

  150. Jeremiahon 23 May 2011 at 12:42 am

    And no Mike, that energy isn’t god. It always was and never will be anything other than an evolving version of the something that it always has been. We of the agnostic or atheist persuasion will eventually find out more of why that is than you will ever be able to by the hoped for revelation. That’s a prediction of events that admittedly I anticipate will come to pass.

  151. Jeremiahon 23 May 2011 at 12:56 am

    BillyJoe7, why can’t you just shut up about your ‘fantasy’ life, and temper your attack dog tactics in the bargain. And I don’t pretend anything. I know who you are because I know people who know who you are and what you do by what you’ve voluntarily revealed in the course of your attempts for whatever reason to single me out as a target for harassment. I was on jref and noted that you did the same if you’ll recall. No threats there shorty, just the reminder that tit for tat is the basic strategy for getting the defectors of the biological world to call off their dogs.

  152. BillyJoe7on 23 May 2011 at 6:37 am

    Jeremiah,

    I’ve only ever responded to your continual harping on about it. If it wasn’t for you, my reference to my personal example would never have gone beyond that first response to petrossa. So, as soon as you stop harping on about I will be more than happy to let it rest. But every time you raise it yet again and mischaracterise the situation, I feel entitled to defend myself against that mischaracterisation.

    Also, I have no idea who you are outside of this blog. As far as I can recall I have never crossed swords with you before, here or anywhere else. As far as I can recall I have never even argued about a conscious purposeful universe at the JREF. And I am a rare visitor there these days through lack of time. And, when I responded to you here for the first time I didn’t even see you as an enemy. Believe that or not, it is the truth. The first act of blatant aggression came from you, and that is a fact.

    But at least I now know why you overreacted to my rather innocuous reponse to you in the previous thread. You are exacting revenge for previous perceived wrongs that I cannot even remember.

  153. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 6:49 am

    @Jeremiah:

    “And no Mike, that energy isn’t god.”

    Of course it isn’t. God is beyond nature. We see His fingerprints, not Him.

    “We of the agnostic or atheist persuasion will eventually find out more of why that is than you will ever be able to by the hoped for revelation.”

    The truth will out, by theologians and philosophers and scientists. Those who contribute will be of many different creeds, some theist, some not. The theists will have the fullest grasp of truth.

    “That’s a prediction of events that admittedly I anticipate will come to pass.”

    We will all know the Truth, personally, before these events come to pass. Three score and ten.

  154. SteveAon 23 May 2011 at 9:49 am

    Whoah, Mike12! What happened to ‘game, set, match’? What are you doing here? Still got something to prove?

    The universe doesn’t need gods to keep it ticking over and none of your mendacious, pseudointellectual squirming makes any kind of case for their existence.

    Your arguments, such as they are, serve only one purpose: they’re a supernatural comfort blanket. You think that if you clutch it tightly enough your mental ‘blankie’ will shield you from the knowledge of your own impending destruction.

    There is no heaven. Death is the end. It all stops.

    I suggest you grow a backbone and try to deal with the fact.

    I imagine you’ll want to respond to this (you seem to be a ‘if I’m the last one to post I must have one an argument’ kind of person), but I won’t be here to read it. I’m moving on to new and better threads.

  155. mufion 23 May 2011 at 10:57 am

    On a somewhat different note, one of my favorite lines from the Hebrew Bible is Genesis 1:2:

    Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

    [Though there are other variations, "formless and empty" is the usual translation of the Hebrew "tohu wa-bohu" and "Spirit of God" of "ruach elohim" (literally, breath/wind of Elohim, which is an alternate name for Yahweh).]

    That said, I’m not sure where the idea of creation ex nihilo came from (although it appears to emerge in Judeo-Christian tradition with Philo Judaeus). Suffice it to say, it is not how I (or various modern biblical scholars) interpret the creation story of Genesis 1. Rather, the text reads more like “order from chaos” rather than “something from nothing”, and the suggestion that God is “nothing” might very well have struck the biblical authors as strange, if not heretical. (For that matter, there is evidence that many ancient Judeans & Israelites believed in a corporeal God; i.e. one with a literally material, anthropomorphic body.)

    Of course, that proves nothing about the actual origins of the universe, let alone metaphysical truth. I just thought it was an interesting side point that not even the Judeo-Christian tradition is monolithic in this regard.

  156. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 10:57 am

    @SteveA:

    “Your arguments, such as they are, serve only one purpose: they’re a supernatural comfort blanket. You think that if you clutch it tightly enough your mental ‘blankie’ will shield you from the knowledge of your own impending destruction. There is no heaven. Death is the end. It all stops.:

    Even though you’re not reading this, I’ll reply.

    I believe that after death I’ll face my Creator, give an account of how I’ve lived my life, and face the possibility of consignment to eternal agony.

    You believe that you will poof out of existence, no questions, no regrets.

    And you assert that my metaphysics is a “comfort blanket”?

    Of course, I do believe in God’s mercy, and I have found Him to be immeasurably comforting in difficult times. But my conversion to Christianity (I was an atheist) was not the result of a search for comfort. It was the result of a growing awareness that I was mssing something, and that I was being pursued. He found me, before I found Him.

  157. mufion 23 May 2011 at 11:04 am

    PS: For that matter, there is no consensus on the cosmological argument among modern-day theologians (let alone among philosophers, in general), despite Mike12′s image of a united theistic front.

  158. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 11:14 am

    @mufi

    “PS: For that matter, there is no consensus on the cosmological argument among modern-day theologians (let alone among philosophers, in general), despite Mike12′s image of a united theistic front.”

    I strongly agree. The cosmological argument is still debated, hotly. It is often misunderstood even by theologians and philosophers. It has certainly been challenged by serious thinkers. Most of the challenges have been at the periphery (questions of precisely what constitutes an essential series of causation, etc). It has not been refuted.

    My argument is this: ithe real cosmological argument is a strong argument for the existence of a Prime Mover (etc), and if it is to be engaged, it must be engaged seriously and with genuine knowledge of the structure of the argument. Popular scientists’ book tour pronouncements on God’s existence do not engage it, and are clownish and do an enormous disservice to the public.

  159. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 11:56 am

    @mufi:

    “On a somewhat different note, one of my favorite lines from the Hebrew Bible is Genesis 1:2: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. [Though there are other variations, “formless and empty” is the usual translation of the Hebrew “tohu wa-bohu” and “Spirit of God” of “ruach elohim” (literally, breath/wind of Elohim, which is an alternate name for Yahweh).”

    The passages are profound, and imply that a simple ‘Big Bang ex nihilo’ is not just what is being described. “Let ther be light” is a pretty spot-on description of the Big Bang itself.

    “That said, I’m not sure where the idea of creation ex nihilo came from (although it appears to emerge in Judeo-Christian tradition with Philo Judaeus). Suffice it to say, it is not how I (or various modern biblical scholars) interpret the creation story of Genesis 1. Rather, the text reads more like “order from chaos” rather than “something from nothing””

    I agree that ‘order from chaos’ is a better reading.

    “and the suggestion that God is “nothing” might very well have struck the biblical authors as strange, if not heretical. (For that matter, there is evidence that many ancient Judeans & Israelites believed in a corporeal God; i.e. one with a literally material, anthropomorphic body.)”

    I think that it was a long era of education, of God revealing Himself to man (through the Jews). There were undoubtably many different understandings of Who He was. There people were quasi-pagans in many cases.

    Yet there were astonishingly profound insights as to His real nature– “I Am” of Exodus 2 perhaps the most profound. He told Moses (and us) that he is not a god among gods. He is Existence Itself.

  160. mufion 23 May 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Mike, you’re entitled to your opinion. And I respect that you’ve put the time into studying Aquinus (even though I don’t share your sympathy with his religious agenda*). My immediate point is a relatively modest one: I take it seriously when I am informed that an argument is controversial among philosophers (i.e. the relevant experts, in this case); e.g. according to the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Both theists and non-theists in the last part of the 20th century generally have shown a healthy skepticism about the argument.” and “In short, contemporary philosophers continue to contribute detailed arguments on both sides of the debate.” That needn’t stop lay folk like ourselves from taking sides, of course (and I’m as sensitive to the Argument from Authority fallacy as the next guy), but the outcome of these informal, anonymous debates (even if I’m on the “winning” side) is never quite as impressive to me as knowing that the experts agree (or at least most of them do). And that’s apparently not so, in this case.

    * As a personal disclaimer: my exposure to Aquinus is admittedly indirect. Back in my religious period (as an Orthodox Jew, rather than a Christian), I studied Moses ben Maimon (a.k.a. Maimonides), who drank from the same Aristotelian cup and was reputedly an influence on Aquinus. Since then I’ve mostly consumed modern or contemporary philosophical critiques (as opposed to the primary texts) of medieval scholastics & religious apologetics.

  161. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 12:14 pm

    @mufi and all:

    Another thing about the classical proofs. They do not presuppose a finite past. They presuppose an infinite past. This concept of creation was one of Aquinas’ most profound contributions. He pointed out that creation is not temporal (as Augustine had observed), and he pointed out that an eternal universe still presupposed creation.

    Whether the past is finite or infinite temporally, the impossibility of infinite regression in a causual essential series requires a Creator (First Cause).

    Eternal existence of a contingent being (the universe) still does not explain it’s own existence. Creation is a statement about cause, not about beginning.

  162. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 12:34 pm

    @mufi:

    “according to the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Both theists and non-theists in the last part of the 20th century generally have shown a healthy skepticism about the argument.”

    Absolutely true. Reputable sources like the Stanford Encyclopedia are very helpful in gauging the current state of the debate. My point here has been much more modest: assertions by atheist scientists that science disproves God are utterly irresponsible, and the proper response of the responsible scientific community should be:

    ‘these jerks don’t speak for us, whether we are theists or atheists, and are a discredit to serious scientists’.

    “…is never quite as impressive to me as knowing that the experts agree”

    Experts are fine, but ‘”experts agree” is too often less an affirmation of the current state of knowledge than a way of advancing one view over another. When I hear “experts agree”, I think of an infomercial. I prefer the motto: “Show Me”.

    “As a personal disclaimer: my exposure to Aquinus is admittedly indirect. Back in my religious period (as an Orthodox Jew, rather than a Christian), I studied Moses ben Maimon (a.k.a. Maimonides), who drank from the same Aristotelian cup and was reputedly an influence on Aquinus. Since then I’ve mostly consumed modern or contemporary philosophical critiques (as opposed to the primary texts) of medieval scholastics & religious apologetics.”

    Maimonidies made profound contributions. The primary texts are quite difficult, and not to everyone’s taste, but it’s important to at least have a really good and reliable commentary. Many quite accomplished philosophers and theologians still get the classics wrong. Ed Feser (“Aquinas”) and Gilson (The Christian Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas) and Maratain (“Approaches to God) are excellent texts and true to the original arguments. Feser’s is very accessible and a delight.

  163. Reilmanon 23 May 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I’ve only read about a quarter of the way through the comments, but I’m at the point where Mike12 accuses Steve and the other commenters of being wrong because they can’t understand his pet arguments.

    “And I assume theological ignorance on the part of atheists. Why should the present differ from the past? My assertions of ignorance of commenters is of their philosophical ignorance, which is manifest”

    I’d like to think my experience is relevant here. My doctoral dissertation concerned the influence of Boethius on Aquinas and several other medieval philosophers. Also until recently, I was a member of the philosophy department at a small liberal arts college where I regularly taught Aquinas. I won’t attempt refute his arguments here, but it seems to me that Steve and others have basically got it right. Perhaps I don’t understand Aquinas as well as I thought. It is also possible that the bulk of the world’s philosophers, who find his reasoning flawed and outdated, are equally ignorant. Or perhaps it is only Mike12′s arrogance that is manifest.

  164. mufion 23 May 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Mike, I would agree insofar as scientists (qua scientists) are not qualified experts in philosophy.

    But science is relevant to philosophy whenever a philosopher attempts an a posteriori argument, whereby empirical evidence is crucial. Note, for example, that (according to that same Stanford entry) William Lane Craig draws on theoretical physics in support of his version of the cosmological argument.

    By the same token, philosophy is still relevant to science, especially when the latter steps into more speculative territory, which seems an apt description of certain areas of theoretical physics (particularly QM interpretations).

    That said, the nice thing about science is its ethic of self-correction via more & better evidence, which I think allows it to progress in a more obvious and steady way than philosophy, where seemingly endless, unresolved debates often appear to be the norm. This trend has probably led some to conclude that science is our most reliable (if not only) source of knowledge. For my part, I tend to view purely a priori arguments (i.e. those which rely solely on definitions and intuitions) with greater skepticism. But, since philosophy is not limited to those, my interest in that domain remains alive.

  165. Mike12on 23 May 2011 at 2:23 pm

    @mufi:

    “But science is relevant to philosophy whenever a philosopher attempts an a posteriori argument, whereby empirical evidence is crucial. Note, for example, that (according to that same Stanford entry) William Lane Craig draws on theoretical physics in support of his version of the cosmological argument.”

    I agree. I have great personal respect for Craig, but I don’t endorse some of his arguments, especially the ones based on quantum mechanics, etc. I love watching him debate, because he’s very effective and I’m basically on his side, but some of his arguments have made me cringe. I especially dislike the argument from Anthropic coincidences. It’s a very weak argument, because in order to ascertain whether it is remarkable or mundane that the universe should have the properties that it does we have to first know what properties it could have had. We don’t know that, and we shouldn’t imply that we do.

    Now I do believe that the universe was made for man, but I don’t believe that such an opinion can be demonstrated with anything resembling logical rigor.

    I respect Craig, and I think that he is a more careful academic philosopher than he is a careful debater.

    “That said, the nice thing about science is its ethic of self-correction via more & better evidence, which I think allows it to progress in a more obvious and steady way than philosophy, where seemingly endless, unresolved debates often appear to be the norm.”

    Science is really a part of philosophy- natural philosophy- not a separate disclipline. It’s not surprising that specialty areas in philosophy that seek to explain and manipulate the natural world would ‘progress’ more steadily. In the same sense, engineering progresses even more steadily than theoretical science (there’s less debate about bridge construction than there is about cosmology). That doesn’t mean that engineering is a more reliable quide to transcendent truths. Metaphysics deals with enormously difficult topics, and I think that it has made great strides coinsidering the nature of its subject.

    “This trend has probably led some to conclude that science is our most reliable (if not only) source of knowledge.”

    That’s positivism, which is perhaps the most profound (and widely acknowledged) philosophical error of the past couple of centuries. The assertion that “science is the only (or best) way to truth” is not… a scientific assertion. Its’ a metaphysical (epistemological) assertion. It’s an amusing error to make a metaphysical assertion that only scientific assertions are to be trusted.

    There’s no escaping metaphysics. Even the assertion ‘metaphysics is nonsense’ is metaphysics.

  166. mufion 23 May 2011 at 3:58 pm

    If the belief in an objective reality, which includes other minds (contra-solipsism), qualifies as a “metaphysics”, then count me in. But that’s a rather minimalist view (as opposed to one that adds claims about gods, eternal souls, karma, Platonic forms, etc.), wouldn’t you say?

    The (epistemic) view that science is our best tool for acquiring knowledge of that reality (albeit, an uncertain, embodied knowledge) is alive and well in the form of scientific skepticism. But my understanding is it is a distinct position from logical positivism, in that the latter school argued that all metaphysical claims are meaningless or incoherent. By contrast, a scientific skeptic might deem a particular metaphysical claim to be unfalsifiable and/or implausible, but meaningful, nonetheless.

    And, besides, science (at least as I see it) is only a collection of methodological assumptions, whose value stems mainly from its demonstrable ability to generate more finely tuned predictions, in the hopes that we can use it to better manage our environment and ourselves. (And, yes, engineering deserves props, as well.) In other words, scientific knowledge need not be “true”, so long as it “works.”

  167. BillyJoe7on 23 May 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Mike,

    “Whether the past is finite or infinite temporally, the impossibility of infinite regression in a causual essential series requires a Creator (First Cause). ”

    Except that cause is not essential as quantum physics has shown.

    “Even the assertion ‘metaphysics is nonsense’ is metaphysics.”

    If the only true metaphysical statement is ‘metaphysics is nonsense’ then, apart from that one statement, metaphysics IS nonsense.

  168. neilgrahamon 23 May 2011 at 11:26 pm

    It is interesting – at least to me – that Hawkings seems to equate an afterlife with the afterlife of the physical brain. I think it was Smart many decades ago formulated the mind as being synonymous with the brain. This argument has been refuted by many. I think that definitions are missing. What is the brain? What are its limits? What is life? What do we mean by afterlife?
    For me, consciousness (life, perhaps) is not something I possess but rather something I take part in, something outside the individual. It is this consciousness that continues after I die. I am merely a small bubble in the cauldron that is the universe and when that bubble bursts the ‘I’ that is me falls back into it. In this sense I am a firm believer of an afterlife.

  169. Mlemaon 24 May 2011 at 6:48 am

    “There is no heaven or afterlife…that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

    How can anyone so brilliant as Stephen Hawking be dumb enough to purport to know what comes after death?

  170. Mlemaon 24 May 2011 at 7:12 am

    The Dalai Lama said that debating and wondering about the existence of God is not conducive to the spiritual life. And, in as much as science demands a quiet, focused mind, open to insight regarding the nature of existence, i would say that debating and wondering about the existence of God is not conducive to the scientific life either.

    But, the discussion and philosophy is necessary in the way that yin requires yang – and balancing them will manifest the Tao. The blueprint of reality, its “Intelligence” in unknowable – which is not the same as saying there are gaps. It is unknowable in the same way that you will never be able to stand behind yourself and look at the back of your head.

    But keep trying – and then – don’t try. There you will find the way. (try and try to figure out the chemical structure of benzene, then fall asleep, exhausted, and it comes like carbon imps dancing in a circle in your dream)
    http://web.fccj.org/~ethall/benzene/benzene.htm

    much of science, and perhaps all of the divine, is revelation which comes in response to our longing and striving to understand “reality” as we interact with the natural world in our own lives on this planet.

  171. BillyJoe7on 24 May 2011 at 7:25 am

    I guess he is brilliant only when he agrees with you. :)

  172. BillyJoe7on 24 May 2011 at 7:34 am

    Mlema,

    It IS science
    God is an hypothesis.
    It is also a failed hypothesis:

    All but the deist god is susceptible to science.
    The deist god falls on Ockham’s Razor.

    Hawking is correct.

  173. BillyJoe7on 24 May 2011 at 7:38 am

    “But keep trying – and then – don’t try. There you will find the way. (try and try to figure out the chemical structure of benzene, then fall asleep, exhausted, and it comes like carbon imps dancing in a circle in your dream)”

    This is a false analogy.

    Most creative insights turn out to be wrong.
    They must be subjected to the scientific test.
    The ring structure of benzene won out.
    The Ether did not.

    (See above for god)

  174. tmac57on 24 May 2011 at 9:38 am

    BillyJoe7-My anecdotal experience is that the most brilliant people are always the ones that agree with me ;)

  175. Mlemaon 24 May 2011 at 4:36 pm

    BillyJoe7:

    Can’t prove it! Can’t prove it!
    Ockham’s razor! Ockham’s razor!

    Ah, my dear friend. I remember you! You know every bit as much about everything as Stephen Hawking does! that’s why, like him, you KNOW what comes after life. I remember that for you there is no “self”, no “I”! You deny that the concept of the existence of these things is even real. Why WOULD I try to argue that you will have an afterlife?

    Man finds eternity only to the degree to which he can unify himself with the infinite (which is eternal). Science plays a role in that. Philosophy, Logic, Math, Music, and even religion play a role in that.

    why do you limit yourself my friend? Haven’t you ever experienced an “insight” about anything? Having applied your reasoning and questioning and deduction to a problem, finally – an idea comes from outside the realm of your consideration – and, testing it out: find truth? That’s how Darwin “discovered” evolution!

  176. BillyJoe7on 24 May 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Mlema,

    “Haven’t you ever experienced an “insight” about anything?”

    I have. And most of the time I’m wrong. How do I find out I’m wrong? I apply reasoning, logic, and science to my insight and discover that I was mistaken.

    “Having applied your reasoning and questioning and deduction to a problem, finally – an idea comes from outside the realm of your consideration – and, testing it out: find truth? That’s how Darwin “discovered” evolution!”

    I agree that’s how Darwin discovered evolution.That is not how anyone discovers god or afterlife though.

    “you KNOW what comes after life.”

    That’s shorthand for:
    There is no evidence for an afterlife, therefore there is no reason to believe in an afterlife; and, if there is an afterlife, we have no way to tell what that afterlife could possibly be like or what we must do to achieve it; and therefore I live my life as if there is no afterlife.

    “I remember that for you there is no “self”, no “I”! You deny that the concept of the existence of these things is even real.”

    But there is an illusion of self which is indistinguishable from a self. All I mean is that there is no entity that controls the brain. That’s just an illusion produced by the brain.

    “Why WOULD I try to argue that you will have an afterlife?”

    Because you don’t have an argument?

  177. Mlemaon 24 May 2011 at 5:49 pm

    BillyJoe7:
    what you’re missing is that I’m not trying to argue with you. I’m just trying to help you see that it’s useless to defend a belief for which there is no means of proof.

  178. Jeremiahon 24 May 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Miema, what you’re missing is you’re dealing with someone who claims to have some facility with science, yet is convinced that scientists can create a perfect vacuum from which they can extract something that was never there before they gave it the opportunity to spontaneously arise from nothing.

    A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which scientists know is impossible to achieve in practice. Thus scientists, or anyone who claims to think like one, will have no way to know that whatever was extracted was something that had arisen in some fashion from a true state of nothing.

    And yet he defended and continues to defend that belief in the equivalent of an afterlife existence for which there is no means of proof.

  179. BillyJoe7on 25 May 2011 at 12:05 am

    Mlema,

    “I’m just trying to help you see that it’s useless to defend a belief for which there is no means of proof.”

    You just stole my argument against your position.
    …except science is not about proof but about evidence.

  180. BillyJoe7on 25 May 2011 at 12:09 am

    Jeremiah, thanks for mischaracterisong my position once again.
    I am going to assume it is not willfull but the result of impaired intellectual capacity because it seems to be a recurring problem with you.

  181. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 12:43 am

    What then, BillyJoe, is your correctly characterized position about the scientific evidence that scientists, for experimental or any other purposes, can create a perfect vacuum?
    That there’s no proof there is such evidence, or there’s evidence but no proof?
    Makes me wonder, what the definition of evidence is if not the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid, and what the definition of proof is if not evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement.

  182. nybgruson 25 May 2011 at 3:10 am

    Jeremiah (correct me where I am wrong in the assumptions):

    Let us say that you have removed all possible physical matter from an area of space. You agree then, that at that point, what is classically considered “empty space” would in fact have an average energy density due to quantum foam effects, correct?

    Now, your stance is that this means there is no such thing as truly empty space since it must always be occupied by at least energy, which as we know is equivalent to mass via Einstein’s equation. Thus, your assertion is that “something” coming from “nothing” makes no sense since there is always “something” in the form of an average energy density even in the most empty of space. Am I correct so far?

    Now, as I had stated earlier somewhere, all of this quantum foam and average energy density effect is due to probabalistic quantum uncertainty (and I think you would agree with this as well).

    However, remember this is an average density – which means there will be regions in space and time that are higher and lower in energy. The equations dictating this behaviour, as I said earlier, do not (to my knowledge) have an asymptote approaching zero. Thus, through random chance, there will be at some point in space an time when the energy will reach zero. At that instantaneous moment, there will be no particles, no energy, there will be…. nothing. However, in the very next pico- or nano-second a particle and corresponding anti-particle will spontaneously arise and then mutually annihilate. That is the definition of quantum foam.

    Thus, “something” (i.e. those said particles) came from “nothing” (that moment of space time where the quantum wave function was euqal to zero). Your assertion that scientists cannot artificially create a “true nothing” and suspend space-time in that state until they experimentally induce the formation of “something” is completely pointless. Nobody is debating that. The point is that all throughout space, the average energy density of empty space is generated by the random quantum formation of particles from nothing.

    Now, please address the specifics of what I have said and demonstrate why that means there must always be something at every single position of space-time imagineable or else your critique of the casimir effect is wrong and the discussion of “something” coming from “nothing” is over.

  183. nybgruson 25 May 2011 at 3:11 am

    sorry for missing a bold html tag somewhere and messing up the formatting

  184. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 4:21 am

    nybgrus, you still don’t get it that I’m not critiquing the casimir effect. I’m stating that it doesn’t prove, as BillyJoe believes, that something can come from what is truly nothing, and IT WASN’T INTENDED TO PROVE THAT!
    And BillyJoe was the one gratuitously contending that, since my contention earlier was actually a philosophical one (as was Hawking’s) that something cannot come from what is truly nothing. Which had seemed to be what Hawking had been proposing about the universe’s spontaneous origin – no first mover in its past, &c. And others elsewhere had criticized that statement on that very basis.

    But now you make the bold statement that: “The point is that all throughout space, the average energy density of empty space is generated by the random quantum formation of particles from nothing.”
    Except that you previously conceded ’twas a mathematically determined ‘nothing’ which was WITHIN the known universe that in Hawking’s view had not previously existed – prior to the bang that is.

    It’s a false dichotomy to allege that unless the universe is fully stocked with something in every nook and cranny, then otherwise it has within it at least one true space of nothing. That’s really bad philosophy and bad science to boot. It’s a mathematically determined nothing which, if you think it proves no energy or information exists in any form in those imaginary spots of yours, you’re deluded.
    And here you are again trying to mix apples with oranges in your peculiar style of duplicitous debate. You will recall my mentioning of Wheeler and the “where did something come from if not nothing dilemma.” It’s still a scientific puzzle and surely a philosophical conundrum. But not to you in seems, so perhaps one day you’ll solve it for us. Although I’m sure it won’t be today. And your ability to discuss the something from nothing will be over before it even started.

  185. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 4:24 am

    What then, BillyJoe, is your correctly characterized position about the scientific evidence that scientists, for experimental or any other purposes, can create a perfect vacuum?

  186. nybgruson 25 May 2011 at 6:11 am

    i give up. You’re right, my “allegation” that because the math that describes the phenomenon we are discussing allows for zero energy to exist is duplicitous. It makes absolutely no sense for me to reference the same equations that define the existence of the average energy density and particles that comprise it and state that those same equations allow for zero to be a solution. Because apparently, while they can describe the “something” that is there, they are not also allowed to describe a zero as a viable solution. Because according to jeremiah, that zero is still actually “something.” Clearly you know something that I don’t in regards to what zero means as a solution to equations describing the quantum state of something. Because apparently, instead of that being a solution out of many it is a dichotomy. Never mind the fact that the “quantum” in quantum mechanics refers to discrete states – not continuous functions. So “zero” or “something other than zero” is obviously a “false” dichotomy.

    Thanks for fixing my thinking on that by addressing my points so directly and accurately. I now know, thanks to you, that even though the equations show us that “zero” is a valid solution, it doesn’t actually mean zero, or that nothing is there. It means something was there before and we just like to call it zero. The rest of the equations work and make sense, but I can now be certain that for the special value of zero, the equations don’t actually mean what they say. So thanks for setting me straight there Jeremiah. I am eternally grateful to you for fixing my “delusion.”

  187. BillyJoe7on 25 May 2011 at 6:18 am

    Jeremiah,

    First, point out to me where I actually made that claim.

  188. PhysiPhileon 25 May 2011 at 10:20 am

    nybgrus,

    Scanning through the comments I happened to read your description of quantum foam. I have only taken a couple courses dealing strictly with quantum theory (most have been application), but I have also connected a psi(X(…) @ t-1)=0 that becomes psi(X(…) @ t)=/=0 to ‘something’ coming from ‘nothing’.

    But, I was looking at the equations at a specific slice of time and ignoring previous events that lead to setting up the current wavefunction. This would be analogous to looking at the zeros of a standing wave and claiming the proximal motion is arising from nothing when, in fact, it’s arising from interfering wavefronts.

    My current thinking is that either we don’t have the math to describe what happens to a wavefunction when a time dimension emerges (i.e. at the big bang), or, more likely, my elementary understanding of quantum mechanics isn’t able to speak to the issue.

    Your thoughts?

  189. ccbowerson 25 May 2011 at 11:28 am

    “It’s a false dichotomy to allege that unless the universe is fully stocked with something in every nook and cranny, then otherwise it has within it at least one true space of nothing.”
    – Actually thats a true dichotomy, unless you are saying that a lack of something is not a nothing.

  190. ccbowerson 25 May 2011 at 11:38 am

    Jeremiah’s argument appears to be “begging the question” plus “argument from personal incredulity.” He states that ‘something cannot come from nothing.’ If he is shown in an example that something did come from nothing, he then argues that the nothing is not really nothing… because ‘something cannot come from nothing.’

    Perhaps he is factually correct. I don’t have a strong opinion on the subject, because it is well beyond my expertise (and I suspect others here as well), but I suspect we are oversimplifying things a bit. As difficult as it is for me to envision a something from nothing, I will not let my own difficulty in grasping the concept prevent me recognizing the possibility that this may be the nature of the universe.

  191. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 12:36 pm

    bowers: A lack of a certain something is a lack of that certain something, not a lack of everything there is. Unless you are as contextually challenged as these other fellows seem to be. Or as analogously challenged, or what all of this adds up to as inferentially challenged.

    As to whether it’s a theoretical possibility that the universe came from nothing – no prior space, matter, energy, information, zip, nada – it’s simply an untenable theory of the possible. But worse than that, what we’ve been confronted with by such a scientist as Hawking and such amateurs as nybgrus, is the probability that this happened – because to give nybgrus’ example, someone like Hawking has done the math.
    While someone like Wheeler knew that math can’t take the measure of the non-existent, and blame it’s failure on the non-existent.

  192. mufion 25 May 2011 at 12:38 pm

    “I will not let my own difficulty in grasping the concept prevent me recognizing the possibility that this may be the nature of the universe.”

    Nor will I – especially since this turn in the conversation is well outside of my comfort zone.

    But I will admit to detecting a hint of reification (a.k.a. the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) in the suggestion (intended or not) that a mathematical nothing is equivalent to a physical (or is it metaphysical?) nothing. If that’s the case, then how do we know for certain that current technology simply isn’t powerful enough to detect all levels of energy, no matter how minute (assuming energy qualifies as “something”, or at least potential something, in this discussion)?

    Perhaps my head is still stuck back in the religious debate above, where the argument from ignorance (or the God of the Gaps fallacy) was so brilliantly on display. But I’m thinking: Let’s be clear that, when we (as in: the scientific-skeptics, agnostics, and atheists among us) talk about “something from nothing”, we’re talking about a mathematical, metaphorical, or potential nothing, which is all that our science permits us to talk about. The rest is little more than metaphysical speculation.

  193. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Jeremiah on 20 May 2011 at 12:27 am

    “Did the universe exist before man? If so, who measured it and observed it?”

    Quite likely the universe has always existed, since unlike Hawking’s leap of logic, something cannot come from nothing – since, as someone else has pointed out, there can’t have been a nothing for that something to have, even in imagination, come from.

    BillyJoe7 on 21 May 2011 at 7:42 am

    Jeremiah,
    “something cannot come from nothing”
    The Casimir Effect.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect

  194. ccbowerson 25 May 2011 at 1:33 pm

    This conversation is getting confused. There aren’t degrees of nothingness… in fact I’m not sure how anyone can argue that there are different types of nothing. Nothing is an absolute term, any other use of the term is analogous to saying “somewhat sterile.”

  195. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 2:20 pm

    nothing |ˈnəθi ng |
    pronoun
    not anything; no single thing : I said nothing | there’s nothing you can do | they found nothing wrong.
    • something of no importance or concern : “What are you laughing at?” “Oh, nothing, sir.” | they are nothing to him | [as n. ] no longer could we be treated as nothings.
    • (in calculations) no amount; zero.
    adjective [ attrib. ] informal
    having no prospect of progress; of no value : he had a series of nothing jobs.
    adverb
    not at all : she cares nothing for others | he looks nothing like the others.
    • [ postpositive ] informal used to contradict something emphatically : “This is a surprise.” “Surprise nothing.”

  196. chaos4zapon 25 May 2011 at 3:36 pm

    NeuroLogica Articles:

    Crop Circle Madness (April 1 2008) 16 Comments
    Bem’s Psi Research (Jan 7 2011) 58 Comments
    Predicting Alzheimer’s Disease (April 7 2011) 47 comments
    Another Cure for Cancer? (May 16 2011) 6 comments

    Hawking on Heaven (may 18 2011)……196 AND COUNTING!

    Surely I’m not the only one to notice that the most comments tend to show up any time Steve provides a chance for religion to come up. It’s amazing how quickly people wear out their keyboards once you cross the line into the pasture of their sacred cow’s.

  197. BillyJoe7on 25 May 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Jeremiah,

    “Quite likely the universe has always existed, since unlike Hawking’s leap of logic, something cannot come from nothing – since, as someone else has pointed out, there can’t have been a nothing for that something to have, even in imagination, come from.”

    Somehow you seem to think that the universe has always existed is easier to get your mind around than the universe came from nothing.
    On the other hand, the lessons from quantum physics makes the the universe came from nothing infinitely more plausible. And I chose the word infinitely deliberately (see below).

    The Casimir Effect demonstrates that particles can appear where previously (a nanosecond before) there was no particle, so its seems plausible that the first particle could have arisen when there were no particles in existence before it.

    On the other hand, if time itself arose with the big bang, then in that sense it would be true to say that the universe has always existed. But if you mean the universe has stretched infinitely back in time (or meta-time), you have the problems of explaining the infinite. Good luck with that.

  198. BillyJoe7on 25 May 2011 at 5:38 pm

    chaos4zap,

    “Surely I’m not the only one to notice that the most comments tend to show up any time Steve provides a chance for religion to come up.”

    It’s not only a religious argument.
    There are other motivations as well. There are some willing to extrapolate far beyond our present understanding of science and make connections where there seemingly are none.
    At least the motivations of the religious are obvious.

  199. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Extrapolate beyond BillyJoe7′s present understanding is more like it. Example:

    “The Casimir Effect demonstrates that particles can appear where previously (a nanosecond before) there was no particle, so its seems plausible that the first particle could have arisen when there were no particles in existence before it.”

    Except it doesn’t demonstrate that to Casimir or to any other scientist as plausible that the particle was not previously in existence somewhere in some form of something.

    “Somehow you seem to think that the universe has always existed is easier to get your mind around than the universe came from nothing.”
    Yes, because the universe exists by any definition of existence, and it’s here now. When do you suspect that nothing was here and could have been here now in its place? Or ever will be in future.
    If you have the mind to get around the ramifications of that problem, of course.

  200. nybgruson 25 May 2011 at 10:32 pm

    @PhysiPhile: Thank you for that response – that is exactly the sort of direct and reasoned conversation I had hoped to have on the topic.

    I consider my knowledge to be elementary as well and have stated that I am at best making qualitative descriptions from my readings on the topic.

    Thank you for demonstrating that I am not insane and that in fact the functions do show quantum states equal to zero. What this actually means is something I think very much up for debate in the scientific community. My impression from reading most of the experts in the field is that it does demonstrate something from nothing – i.e. the spontaneous generation of real particles from nothing – not from energy or pre-existing particles. And it is not a quantum teleportation or tunneling of particles that existed in one region of space to another. Rather than being a demonstration of a non-local quantum effect I see it as a genuine creation of actual particles that had previously not existed before. This is based on interpretation of Hawking radiation. First off, for the non-locality theory of quantum particle both a particle and its anti-particle to be generated. But moreso, Hawking radiation demonstrates that at the edge of an event horizon one of the particles can get trapped inside the black hole and the other outside. This leads to an increase in the energy of the sytem outside the black hole and a corresponding decrease in the energy (mass) of the black hole itself. If the particles were the function of a non-local quantum effect or teleportation that landed the particle in the black hole then there would be no net increase in the system outside the black hole but an increase inside and thus we would expect the black hole to grow, not shrink.

    This is key here and a further extension of why I assert that it is something from nothing. When you have a region of space just next to the event horizon and the wave function shows a quantum state of zero, then in the next instant a particle/anti-particle is generated, the only way to have the addition of a particle to a black hole decrease its mass is if that pair of quantum particles arose from nothing – because that indicates that there has been an increase in the energy state of that region of space-time. That, to me, is the definition of something from nothing – literally added energy from whence there was none. It is through the necessary balance of energy in the system via the second law of thermodynamics that Hawking radiation is observed.

    Of course, since this is happening constantly everywhere in the universe, it becomes the average energy density of empty space.

    Jeremiah’s incredulity notwithstanding, those basic premises demonstrate something from nothing. Stating that a theory is “simply untenable” is exactly begging the question. Quantum non-locality effects were once “simply untenable” as well, until confirmed with empirical data.

    The notion that the math itself creates a “zero” quantum state that does not translate to an “actual” absence of everything is an asinine stance.

    Asserting that “If that’s the case, then how do we know for certain that current technology simply isn’t powerful enough to detect all levels of energy, no matter how minute (assuming energy qualifies as “something”, or at least potential something, in this discussion)?” is also missing the point (not saying you are asserting that mufi – jeremiah is. But it is a good question to ask).

    The point is that it is the math that is describing the system and predicting the particles and the outcomes of various quantum states. As our technology gets better, we empirically test those mathematical models and when we confirm the existence of said particles it reinforces the model. So the reality is we have not deteced many of the particles predicted – yet we keep getting better and better technology and so far the models hold up. When something else gets detected, the model is changed to accomodate, if possible, or scrapped if necessary. So for Jeremiah to use that argument and say something to the effect that “Our tech isn’t good enough to detect the tiny amount of energy when the quantum state is zero” is a completely pointless argument. We can, by definition, never detect zero – it is defined by exclusion. Since the models and the math predict certain things we can (or potentially could) detect we use those to determine how accurate and correct the math is. From there, we must simply use the math to satisfy ourselves that zero is an acceptable quantum state and that something other than zero can subsequently follow – thus, something from nothing.

    PhyiPhile accurately states though that perhaps the math is describing something like a static state and thus it is a relative zero. My understanding is not quite deep enough to address that fully, but my impression from reading the experts (i.e. NOT jeremiah) is that they do not think this to be the case. Furthermore, if it were a relative zero, then we would expect negative values to arise from the equations (and correct me here PhysiPhile since I really don’t know off the top of my head) that is not the case. In light of that, I am content to say that zero means a nothing that can be accurately related to the true state of space-time. At least until the experts come up with data or theories that make that an invalid thesis. So far, I believe it holds up.

  201. Jeremiahon 25 May 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Don’t quit your day job.

  202. BillyJoe7on 26 May 2011 at 12:10 am

    That was an overwhelming response. :D

  203. nybgruson 26 May 2011 at 12:58 am

    I agree BillyJoe. I am truly overwhelmed. And here I was, about to quite my role as head of education for my cohort in med school and quite studying to be a doctor because I figured theoretical physics was a better avenue.

    But I am a bit disappointed. I was expecting Jeremiah to once again try and explain how zero doesn’t actually mean nothing.

  204. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 1:05 am

    Well if he has to go that far to rationalize the possibility that he isn’t wrong, in absence of a chance in hell that he can prove he’s right, then a show of insincere concern is de rigueur.

  205. nybgruson 26 May 2011 at 1:45 am

    oh dear jeremiah. I have not been rationalizing why I am not wrong. I have been explaining my stance on the topic. Only PhysiPhile has even come close to trying to actually engage in anything resembling a discussion on the topic. But I apologize, perhaps you are right and your assertions that zero doesn’t mean “nothing” and your claims that such a concept are “simply untenable” without any sort of actual discussion as to why that may be or any citations should have convinced me I am wrong.

    Or perhaps your strawman attack on the personal life of BillyJoe or mischaracterization of his use of the Casimir effect to refute your stance that there is no such thing as “something” from “nothing” should have convinced me.

    Your existential crisis notwithstanding, you have consistently failed to address the actual points raised and have said nothing particularly interesting or salient yourself. I have actually taken the specific points you have raised and addressed them directly – taking more than just one reference to try and explain from multiple angles why I assert that “something” can and does come from “nothing.” You have just stated “facts” from incredulity and declared things untenable whilst redefining zero as “something” with no other reference.

    I suggest you watch the lecture by Lawrence Krauss (an actual expert in the field!) called A Universe from nothing which was given at the end of LAST YEAR using NEW empirical DATA and demonstrates that the notion that “something” (aka the universe) came from “nothing.” Hence, the title.

    But I guess that my reference to an actual expert and well respected theoretical physcist would once again be me “rationalizing the possibility that [I am not] wrong.”

    Or maybe I watched that lecture 3 times all the way through because I found it fascinating. But I doubt you will take the time to actually watch it once.

  206. PhysiPhileon 26 May 2011 at 2:23 am

    nybgrus,

    “Furthermore, if it were a relative zero, then we would expect negative values to arise from the equations”

    All quantum particles have a wavefunction associated with them. If I want to know some property of the quantum particle (e.g. potential energy, kinetic energy, probability, etc), I must operate on this wavefunction. Mathematically, the wavefunction can have negative values but they would have no physical meaning. This is because the probability of the quantum particle existing is the square its wavefunction (i.e.P(X=1) = psi^2(1)) – obviously, you can’t have a negative probability.

    I often struggle to find words that can describe the meaning behind the equations when explaining these concepts. For example, I can only relate to the nature of the wavefunction through the fact that when you square it, you get a probability of that particle existing at the point – but then I’m using the word in the definition so to speak. To me, saying psi(x)=0 has more meaning than the word nothing – that equation has morphed into a word that holds more significance than ‘nothing’. Maybe someday a word will be created that is the “quantum nothing” and people will use that word instead of ‘nothing’.

    I have a great respect for philosophy, but I often find philosophers extrapolate further than they should. I’ve seen (while quickly browsing) the introduction of a prime mover as a solution for an infinite series of regression. I have several questions about this rationalization. For example, calculus deals with the concept of infinitesimal change, and this was used as a rationalization for Zeno’s paradox (see Zeno’s paradox associate with movement).Similarly, if you took the universe as a hole and regressed backwards quantum change by quantum change, maybe an asymptote is seen as you approach the would be prime mover. This is just one simple alternative hypothesis thought up in a few minutes but I don’t see how it’s any less valid than a prime mover. Also, if there was a prime mover, I am uncertain how this would relate to the topic of God. Calling the prime mover God is like calling the converging distance value that results from applying calculus to Zeno’s motion paradox God – that seems like an odd definition of God.

  207. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 2:39 am

    Was Krauss talking about the emptiness of space again? That old saw as to the nature of space itself as a functional apparatus? About the lawfully determined dimensions that can actually be measured? Boy, that guy’s imagination really can come up with something.
    Nah, I’ll pass on this one. I’ve got nothing to prove.

  208. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 2:52 am

    Hey, good stuff there from PhysiPhile:

    “I often struggle to find words that can describe the meaning behind the equations when explaining these concepts. For example, I can only relate to the nature of the wavefunction through the fact that when you square it, you get a probability of that particle existing at the point – but then I’m using the word in the definition so to speak. To me, saying psi(x)=0 has more meaning than the word nothing – that equation has morphed into a word that holds more significance than ‘nothing’. Maybe someday a word will be created that is the “quantum nothing” and people will use that word instead of ‘nothing’.”

  209. neilgrahamon 26 May 2011 at 3:17 am

    I fail to understand that the “truth” can only be recognised by experts. Most of these blogs seem to be written by people who are so well versed in philosophy, mathematics, physics, cosmology, theology and so on. Surely the “truth” is not simply revealed to such “experts” but is available to all – perhaps even to a non-educated “primitive” in the middle of the Amazon or the Australian desert.

    There is so much reliance on authority and discursive reasoning, it leaves simple individual experience out in the cold. One is reminded of the medieval clergy and the Grand Inquisitors who possessed the “truth” and would dispense it at their will to the ignorant.

    May I suggest a phenomenological approach that values direct experience.

  210. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 3:44 am

    Yeah, but nybgrus and his cohort have heard enough about the personal experience of BillyJoe.

  211. nybgruson 26 May 2011 at 7:42 am

    neilgraham: The truth is accesible to anyone who seeks to find it. The problem is that in today’s day and age the amount of knowledge needed to truly understand “the truth” of many things requires dedication and expertise. It isn’t that you must be an expert to have any idea, but that it is always better to defer to expert opinion when you are unsure or when it contradicts yours.

    Case in point, I am taking the time to become an expert in medicine. My girlfriend in hypersonics engineering. I can become knowledgable enough to understand if she is telling me things completely out of line with reality and if I decide to I can question her about it. The same goes with her and medicine vis-a-vis me. But the best she can hope to do is understand or perhaps contradict me on minor points. To be able to synthesize new ideas and information requires much more extensive training and education.

    So when I say to defer to experts it is because they have put in the work I haven’t and it is arrogant to think otherwise. However, I can do my best to interpret what the experts say and give my best attempt at an informed opinion – but it would be silly of me to contradict them. But what Jeremiah chooses to say about Lawrence Krauss’s assertions are the height of arrogance and ignorance. He is an expert – someone who has put in the years of study in the relevant fields to be able to understand what these things mean. Jeremiah, in his armchair theoretical physics, is supremely arrogant to think he has any basis to just discard Krauss’s theories.

    It is not about selectively doling out “the truth” – it is about being humble enough that a google education does not an expert make. That is why I consistently say that I am merely trying to understand the consensus of theoretical physics. Jeremiah seems to think he knows better than the experts.

    PhysiPhile – you do make some very good and interesting points. It is supremely difficult to verbalize what a zero quantum state means or what infinity means. It is simply not within the realm of human experience. But I would think that the fact that the equations require a sqaure means, as you say, that a negative value makes no sense. Yet a zero value is still a valid solution. What that actually means is yet to be ascertained. Unlike Jeremiah I do not have special knowledge or an advanced degree in theoretical physics (oh wait… does he??) so I can only do my best to integrate what the EXPERT consensus is. And so far that means zero means nothing – and I have yet to hear of a rebuttal to that besides personal incredulity or arrogant scoffing. I do not know enough about Zeno’s paradox to comment on it, but hopefully I will have a chance to look it up at some point and it will allow me to expand my knowledge. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Jeremiah can continue bringing nothing to the table for all I care. I hope you (PhysiPhile) continue to post here over time.

  212. ccbowerson 26 May 2011 at 10:18 am

    “There is so much reliance on authority and discursive reasoning, it leaves simple individual experience out in the cold. One is reminded of the medieval clergy and the Grand Inquisitors who possessed the “truth” and would dispense it at their will to the ignorant.
    May I suggest a phenomenological approach that values direct experience.”

    Nygrus makes a good point here. Relying on expertise is not the same as an appeal to authority. Expertise may result in a level of authority, but there is a relevant basis for it. The problem with relying on direct experience is that it is very often misleading due to limited sample size and misinterpretation for a given individual. Obtaining expertise allows one to acquire information learned from collective experiences, with some process for eliminating incorrect information and reinforcing correct ones. That’s not to say that a person needs a PhD to understand any given topic, but formal education is at least some standard that indicates a certain level of knowledge and understanding.

  213. PhysiPhileon 26 May 2011 at 10:29 am

    nybgrus,

    I will try and contribute more to the comments of the blog. I have read this blog (and your comments) for years. Dr. Novella’s neuroscience related entries are a major reason for me switching from electromagnetic and photonic engineering into medicine – I will be starting my first year of medical school this fall.

  214. mufion 26 May 2011 at 10:42 am

    nybgrus said:

    The point is that it is the math that is describing the system and predicting the particles and the outcomes of various quantum states. As our technology gets better, we empirically test those mathematical models and when we confirm the existence of said particles it reinforces the model. So the reality is we have not deteced many of the particles predicted – yet we keep getting better and better technology and so far the models hold up. When something else gets detected, the model is changed to accomodate, if possible, or scrapped if necessary.

    I don’t doubt you on this. Nor do I intend to challenge the model (which, like I said, is well outside of my comfort zone). I trust your report that it is the best one we’ve got, given the available evidence.

    My own stance here is not so much one of “personal incredulity” (let alone “arrogant scoffing”) as agnosticism. In other words, I hesitate to make the step from “experts conclude that something can come from nothing” to “something actually can come from nothing.” The latter claim may be a valid interpretation of the (empirically tested) model, which in turn hinges on the methodological assumptions and definitions that characterize the field and/or science, in general. It may even be true, for all I know. Or may just be that theoretical physicists have run up against epistemic limits (i.e. human-cognitive, as well as technological). That’s plausible, isn’t it? If so, then it seems more accurate to conclude that “potentially, something can come from nothing.”

  215. mufion 26 May 2011 at 10:47 am

    PS: If nothing else, the “potential” version of that claim seems humbler.

  216. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 12:38 pm

    nybgrus, there seems to be a level where you have a problem with inference. But then again we all will at some point. It’s just that yours is a little lower than it ought to be for one attempting to deal with things at Krauss’s level.
    Read between the lines of the following:
    “the nature of space itself as a functional apparatus – the lawfully determined dimensions that can actually be measured – imagination really can come up with something.”

  217. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 12:47 pm

    ccbowers, you have on the other hand risen to a level that does you proud here:

    “I hesitate to make the step from “experts conclude that something can come from nothing” to “something actually can come from nothing.””

    Good on ‘ya. As we say in Lilydale.

  218. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Oops, my bad, it was mufi that said that. Should have known. He has a talent for inference that nybgrus would do well to examine.

  219. mufion 26 May 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks, Jeremiah.

    Just to test my “talent for inference”: I almost asked you “Which Lilydale? NY or MN?” (Yes, I’m in the USA.) But then the “good on ya’” tipped me off that perhaps you’re an Aussie – and sure enough, according to Google Maps, there’s another Lilydale in the Melbourne area.

    How did I do? :-)

  220. mufion 26 May 2011 at 2:01 pm

    PS: More seriously, I am sorry that the compliment came at someone else’s expense, however. Why can’t we all just get along! (OK, that last part was a bit tongue-in-cheek.)

  221. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Not bad, except that was a rhetorical we.

  222. nybgruson 26 May 2011 at 4:23 pm

    mufi: I never wanted to insinuate you doubted the models I was merely using your very good question as a topic to answer. And I am not put off that your compliment was at my expense – you deserved it. Though I wouldn’t feel so complimented since it came from Jeremiah.

    Indeed you are correct and that stating “potentially” is the accurate way of saying it. However, I would have thought it pretty clear that I had repeatedly said it was the expert opinion and consensus I was trying to understand and explain (i.e. “experts conclude that something can come from nothing”). I had assumed that it would have been clear, especially to present company, that that means “potentially” especially considering that I said things to the effect of “our best understanding” and “until the empirical data shows otherwise.”

    So please Jeremiah, your smugness is unbefitting. I have been the one actually citing the experts and their opinion, I need not feel humbled by mufi’s words. You should. You are the one that apparently seems to know better than the expert consensus, or at least know of some consensus I don’t and are not elucidating it.

    I do not need to be humble and say “potentially nothing” etc – that fact is patent in my writings. I am describing expert consensus – not offering an expert opinion myself. There is a big difference. One which Jeremiah is too arrogant to respect.

  223. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 5:10 pm

    nybgrus, you have cherry picked your experts to support your admittedly amateurish opinions, which is made evident by the fact that the opinions they supposedly supported were not, when it comes right down to it, actually theirs. (Krauss holding that a regulated space itself is something for example.)
    And as a matter of fact I have not complimented mufi for the “potentially nothing” part of his remarks, because no-one has previously made that argument, including any cited experts and most tellingly, not until now have you. Possibly and potentially have entirely different meanings in the context of existence versus non-existence.
    If you conclude there is potential, you have moved, as I pointed out before, to the ‘you can’t prove it’s impossible’ to the ‘I have proved it’s probable’ position. And in fact the last I noticed, you were humbly moving in the opposite direction.

  224. BillyJoe7on 26 May 2011 at 5:54 pm

    mufi,

    Jeremiah: “But then the “good on ya’” tipped me off that perhaps you’re an Aussie – and sure enough, according to Google Maps, there’s another Lilydale in the Melbourne area.”

    It’s actually nothing to do with you, mufi.

    He’s continuing his side-swipes at me. He has somehow obtained information about where I live and what I do and the places I go, and has used this as a sort of threat against me in retaliation for perceived wrongs against him in the past which I cannot even remember. Lilydale is the town next to that in which I live. He has also mentioned the local lake and the ranges where I run.

    The trouble is that what he is threatening to do would harm people in my life who are innocent in all of this.

  225. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Remarks such as

    and such as: “impaired intellectual capacity because it seems to be a recurring problem with you”

  226. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Oops I hit the submit button too soon. I had meant to insert this first:

    “That speck of poo stuck on the back of the toilet bowl that you just can’t piss off no matter how hard you try.”

    If that and the other stone thrown were not aimed publicly at me then the Lilydale reference was not aimed privately at him.

  227. ccbowerson 26 May 2011 at 8:06 pm

    The difference is that BJ’s comments were relevant to the discussion, even if they offended your hypersensitive ego. Your comments are just meant to be low blows and cause harm, capitalizing on BJ’s sharing of personal information. My guess is that you are tough in front of a computer, but would be hiding under the desk with a real person in front of you. You can hide behind the anonymity of the internet, but you don’t have to be a jerk.

  228. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 8:43 pm

    So, Bowers, referring to me as a piece of shit that needs pissing on is relevant to the discussion? It’s BillyJoe that wouldn’t have the guts to say that to me in person, believe me. He hides behind the internet to insult people indiscriminately. Apparently he’s done that to Miema, and he clearly did that here with Mike. Numerous people on JREF have complained about his personal insults as well.
    (I didn’t know this was the same guy when he first attacked me here but I recognized the insults, and sure enough it was the guy there named BillyJoe from Mooroolbark. He’s BillyJoe7 here, but now I know it’s the same person because how many BillyJoe the insult dogs can be from there .)
    By the way I was a boxing instructor in the US Army so I’m capable of doing just what I said to him I’d do if he ever said these things to my face.
    And also weren’t you the one that said it was too much information when he told us all in public what he had to do sometimes and why? Talk about a jerk.

  229. neilgrahamon 26 May 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you for your comments nybgrus. I have spent a lifetime – I am even older than Hawkings – seeking the “truth” and becoming “expert” (according to some) in my field. The more I have studied, the less I can assert with confidence. I do, however, agree with Steven Novella that Hawkings has every right to expound his position on an afterlife and even to suggest that any believe in such a state is a fairytale.

    Coming close to the end of my own life, I can only wish that such is the case. However, along with Hamlet contemplating death, it is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Perchance to dream, aye there’s the rub. The real fairytale might be there is no afterlife.

    I also find myself agreeing with Francois Lyotard’s expressions of incredulity towards meta-narratives – scientific or otherwise.

    To quote Wittgenstein “Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.”

    Here I will end and take some advice from Wittgenstein – Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

  230. ccbowerson 26 May 2011 at 9:11 pm

    “So, Bowers, referring to me as a piece of shit that needs pissing on is relevant to the discussion?”

    I didnt think he was referring to you as poo, but was referring to his frustration, but thats fine to be a bit insulted there if you choose to be. The jerk part is in reference to harping on personal matters, which is done for no other purpose than to cause emotional harm.

    I did say it was TMI at the time, but not for my sake… it just can result in the type of distraction it as become when another person chooses to take it too far. I personally don’t want to harp on this point I would just prefer these discussions to be productive, and not spiral downward into what we see too much of on the internet. Don’t take it personally when someone “attacks” your ideas… I think thats what leads to actual personal attacks

  231. Jeremiahon 26 May 2011 at 9:53 pm

    I don’t take it personally when someone attacks my ideas. Mike attacked my ideas as vigorously (and I might say intelligently) as anyone, and I attacked his with equal effort, and I think both of us enjoyed the experience. One who didn’t in contrast was nybgrus, who ended up telling Mike to bugger off. Loves the kitchen, hates the heat is my guess. He also calls me smug and arrogant when I attack his ideas, but I just see that as a compliment to my cuisine.

  232. nybgruson 27 May 2011 at 12:25 am

    oh my. You attacked my ideas? I fail to see that anywhere. You created arguments of personal incredulity and begging the question – things with OTHERS points out, not I. So don’t fool yourself into thinking you have attacked anything.

    And to call Mike’s arguments intelligent belies your lack thereof. And yes, I told him to bugger off, because his “arguments” were circular bullshit and he couldn’t come up with anything the last 800 years to support his stance. There are only so many times I can hear that Aquinas is the end all be all epitome of the perfect argument.

    So now, I will gladly tell you to bugger off as well. Your pointless “argumentation” your inane accusations (I cherry picked my experts? I cited a number of references, you cited…. one… lets see, how many cherries do I have to pick?), and your inability to stop a completely trivial and asinine personal discussion along the way show your true character. So go on and say whatever you like. Be content behind your computer, certain of your victory over me and everyone else here. You didn’t win – and not because I did. But because I never came here to “win.” I came to have the kind of discussion PhysiPhile seems apt to have. So I hope to continue that sometime with you, but not on this thread.

    And you can be certain that I will no longer waste my time responding to Jeremiah or Mike.

    Congratulations – go have an internet.

  233. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2011 at 12:26 am

    ccbowers,

    I have told him twice already that that remark was not aimed at him. First immediately after I made it, and then later when he referred to it as if it had been aimed at him, perhaps not having seen my follow comment. He cannot use that excuse now, so I can only conclude that he choses to believe it was aimed at him so he can continue his swiping at me from the side-lines.

    The second comment was made very recenty and was definitely justified by his behaviour here in which he continually misrepresents my position despite me continually pointing it out to him – as with the first comment mentioned above.

    I regret the personal anecdote but it was in response to Petrossa who was sharing some personal anecdotes of his own and I got caught up in the exchange.

    As for insults to others, I think that comes out of his own head. I have hardly ever insulted anyone and then only by return fire. Have a look here. I simply stated that he perhaps should not go too far with his analogy. I regarded that as a friendly exchange with someone who I thought I have never exchanged words with before. Seems I have, though I still do not recall a Jeremiah at the JREF.

    As for not recognising BillyJoe7 from BillyJoe, give me a break! :D

  234. Jeremiahon 27 May 2011 at 1:31 am

    The point was, BillyJoe, I recognized the insults and knew I’d seen them before at JREF. So of course I looked for BillyJoe7 at JREF and found BillyJoe.
    And of course you aimed the poo and piss remark at me since I was the subject of the post – anyone can check back and see that. You had to see what you could get away with, obviously from your personal anecdotes that’s your nature.
    Pretending it was a mistake is also in your nature. Got caught up in the exchange with Petrossa on a public forum. Give me a break with that smiley face hypocrisy.
    And pointing out your mistakes in facts and logic is misrepresenting your position? Give us all a break on that one.
    And what a sob story that I’m out to hurt your family for some reason that you can’t remember. I’m out to slap you back every time you continue with those insults, and if you didn’t remember me from JREF, what was your initial animosity based on?
    My guess is you can’t stand to have your insult teeth pulled as without those tactics, no-one pays attention to you, since negativity is all you have to offer.
    And why didn’t you leave it alone when all I did was slip you a private warning to lay off. You must know that by now, everything you say to me comes off like an added insult.
    You must have some kind of a death wish and somehow hope your wife will read this blog and see your excuses before she sees what you actually wrote publicly to Petrossa.
    Why don’t you just tell her the whole story and get it over with.
    Then you can get back to doing whatever it is you think you’re doing.

  235. nybgruson 27 May 2011 at 1:48 am

    # BillyJoe7on 21 May 2011 at 7:43 am
    nybgrus,
    “jeremiah: Very succinct and wholly accurate”
    I believe we have a trojan horse here.
    I don’t believe he is speaking metaphorically.
    “And gives me that same annoyed feeling like that tiny piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth that you just can’t get out.”
    Less graciously:
    That speck of poo stuck on the back of the toilet bowl that you just can’t piss off no matter how hard you try.
    # BillyJoe7on 21 May 2011 at 7:45 am
    …oops, that last bit was not in reference to Jeremiah.

  236. nybgruson 27 May 2011 at 1:51 am

    from me at 20 May 2011 at 8:24 pm:

    “But biology, especially evolutionary biology, is something I actually do know quite well. And when theists fundamentally misrepresent what evolution actually is and what the theory states, it really gets my goat. And gives me that same annoyed feeling like that tiny piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth that you just can’t get out.

    Which was in MY reference to MIKE’S mischaracterization of evolutionary biology.

    But I doubt you’ll apologize for missing the point and being a douche

  237. Jeremiahon 27 May 2011 at 2:12 am

    nygbrus,
    If so, why was he so quick to deny that it was meant for me, since it was right after he claimed I was not speaking metaphorically? And now you’re his insult proxy and I’m a douche? What a pair you two make. Not quite enough to have a circle jerk but close.

    Anyway I was just about to make this last reply to you, thinking you were done. But then you are done, aren’t you, so what the hell, waste not, want not, here it is.

    nybgrus, you are correct. I didn’t attack your ideas because you really didn’t have any that were yours. And worse, the ones you thought you got from others weren’t even theirs.
    I wasn’t looking for an argument from you to begin with. But you teamed up with BillyJoe to give me one in an case. I didn’t stop a trivial discussion with him, you say? Without your help, there would have been no shit and piss remark, and no discussion. Anything to win with you, I guess, except of course you didn’t come here to win, did you.
    So why does it upset you so that I didn’t play the game and let you even try?
    By the way you should go over to the RDF site and take a look. They are making the same arguments for something trumping nothing that I did. And thumping Krauss a bit in the bargain for grudgingly conceding that when he said nothing he didn’t mean it like it sounded. After all there were those other universes out there in the void all of that time. But you knew that.

  238. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2011 at 6:21 am

    Jeremiah,

    You were not the subject of that post as nybgrus has just demonstrated. Please stop insisting that you were.

    “If so, why was he so quick to deny that it was meant for me, since it was right after he claimed I was not speaking metaphorically? ”

    That’s exactly why I added the “oops, that last bit was not in reference to Jeremiah”, in case it was misconstrued as such, coming right after my comment about you.
    I have said it now three times. If you’re still determined that it was meant for you, there’s not much else I can do.

    And still, for the life of me, I do not recognise you from the JREF and I do not remember personally attacking anyone at the JREF. And I have certainly never seen the sort of attack you have launched against me personally here on this blog.

    Without explicitly saying so, you have hinted at retribution. First you identified my home town, then you mentioned the lake and ranges where I run, and then you made out that you live in the neighbouring town. Apparently you were also a boxing instructor in the army. I don’t know about anyone else here, but it has never even entered my head to try to find out a fellow poster’s identity and make veiled threats.

    I’ll say it again, my first post to you was meant as a friendly comment to a poster I thought I had not encountered before. Quite apart from that, I find it difficult to understand how that comment could possibly be construed as antagonistic. Certainly it did not warrant the reaction it got. If I’ve wronged you in the past, I’d be happy to revisit that thread at the JREF, not to continue the debate but to learn for myself any lessons to be learned form it.

  239. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2011 at 8:04 am

    BTW, here is Sean Carroll on Heaven:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=physics-and-the-immortality-of-the-2011-05-23

  240. Jeremiahon 27 May 2011 at 1:26 pm

    ># BillyJoe7on 21 May 2011 at 7:43 am
    nybgrus,
    “jeremiah: Very succinct and wholly accurate”
    I believe we have a trojan horse here.
    I don’t believe he is speaking metaphorically.<

    I guess that was some other Jeremiah that you were talking about?
    Otherwise don't pretend what follows was then about some other person. Nybgrus of course doesn't know about the previous insults here on this blog (and not just to me) that gave rise to my warnings to you. JREF wasn't the problem – it was where I knew you from and got your profile.
    Know thine enemy as the bible says. It also says turn the other cheek, but that advice didn't work out too well with Jesus.

    I came here first because of a topic a student asked about. They read this blog and so do friends and family. Get the picture?
    You want to play, see how you like it on an even field then.

    And it's not just JREF where you insult people as a habit.
    See what people say about you here: http://www.otherhealth.com/
    You say you want to learn from your mistakes? About time.

    And as to what Sean Carroll says about heaven, should I care?
    More to the point, what does he say here that shows he understands the context in which the something versus nothing gives meaning to those terms. (Not that much really but a lot more than you or your NBF have to say.)

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2007/08/30/why-is-there-something-rather-than-nothing/

  241. chaos4zapon 27 May 2011 at 2:06 pm

    WOW, I didn’t think I would ever see it happen here. Jeremiah, I’m sorry your parents and teachers let you down so much, let’s see if we can catch you up. No discussion, no matter how heated or how many insults, can justify an actual physical threat to anyone. Also, Physical threats tend to be the last resort of those who feel they can no longer intelligently defend their position (or opinion). Threats are also the first resort of children. The only thing left to figure out is which you are, my guess is somewhere in the middle.

  242. ccbowerson 27 May 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Hold a grudge much?

  243. Jeremiahon 27 May 2011 at 3:41 pm

    chaos4zap, where was the physical threat? Bowers claimed I’d be physically afraid to call BJ out in person, and I assured him otherwise. But does BJ have the guts to keep taking shit to me with his cover blown? How many times have I asked him to shut up, and how many times do I have to remind him that he said he would but didn’t.
    My teachers taught me that a man’s word is his bond, and it takes guts to keep it. Did someone teach BJ to be a coward or did he learn that on his own. He said he wants “to learn for myself any lessons to be learned from it.” But here we have you two and the cohort boy assuring him that he’s a crowd pleaser. Stand out from the crowd?
    Fuggedaboutit.

  244. BillyJoe7on 28 May 2011 at 8:11 am

    Jeremiah,

    “And it’s not just JREF where you insult people as a habit.”

    Maybe you post under another name, because I simply cannot find any reference to a Jeremiah at JREF. Maybe you’ve also posted here under another name. Otherwise I’m completely mystified at your references to my alleged past wrongs against you.

    “See what people say about you here: http://www.otherhealth.com/

    I can’t see anything of relevance there either.
    Just a list of recent topics, mostly pro-homeopathy and anti-vaccination propaganda.

  245. Jeremiahon 28 May 2011 at 2:20 pm

    BillyJoe7, you should have quit while you were ahead. But you can’t resist the call of the madding crowd, can you.
    I use my surname at JREF and use my biblical name here. But you were supposed to be looking for your special variety of insults, and if you say you haven’t found any there or at that other forum, you are simply lying. Nothing of relevance at the other site, where people were pleading for a moderator to censor you or kick you off? Again you are a liar and clearly had no intention to “to learn for myself any lessons to be learned from it.”

    And it’s not about what was done to me at JREF because you were so out of your depth there it was laughable, and I largely avoided you. Easier to do on that forum than here, possibly because of the different nature of the audience that you seem to play to here.

    So again, it’s not about me personally, although why you picked me as a target is a mystery if it wasn’t for the similarity of my arguments there to here (I am the frustratingly stubborn determinist to some) – it’s about the practice of using personal insult and character assassination as an argument to prevent the other person from presenting the information they came to that forum to present. Preventing them from making a positive contribution to society, which most people feel is their duty and see these forums as affording an opportunity to do. It’s about the tactic of derailing the discussion by forcing them emotionally to respond to the insult instead of to some other party’s intelligent response. It’s in the end the use of dishonesty when you have no honest answers, and are too ignorant and uneducable to make an honest and sufficiently intelligent contribution to the forum.

    It’s about something inherent to your character which apparently can’t be affected by argument. It’s the character of someone who can say publicly without any sense of shame or consequence that
    “I have a crush on one of my employees who works only one four-hour session per week. She charges my fantasy life and, through her, I can once again masturbate to orgasm.”

    Not my idea of a crowd pleaser.

  246. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2011 at 8:35 am

    Jerremiah,

    I have explained myself regarding that post. It seems you think you know my mind better than I do. Not much more I can say on that point except that, in my neck of the woods, we call a spade a spade. No prudery here. That seems to be the case in petrossa’s neck of the woods also and it was to him that I was responding. I had a fruitful exchange with him and gained some insight into the life of at least one person with autism. It may not be generalisable of course. In that sense, I do not regret that comment even though others have found it offensive or “too much information”. I’m not sure what I can do about that.

    The thing I do regret is that you turned that post into something which it was not intended to be, completely mischaracterising it as a “crowd pleaser” or as “seeing what I could get away with” (as if there is any censorship here) – which it certainly was not. I have explained my relationship with my employee and my respect for her. And I am not ashamed of my fantasies. I like interacting with her at work, and I like my fantasies, and they are separate. If you don’t understand, you don’t need to, because it actually has nothing to do with you.

    (Actually, to call her an employee doesn’t do justice to her role at work. She organises my whole day for me, in effect telling me what to do – which is what I employed her to do. If people were to complain about her (they haven’t), I would tell them there is no point complaining to me because she is the boss. Have I just blown another one of your assumptions?)

    Also I haven’t been looking for those comments at the JREF. Why should I? It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, if indeed there is even a needle there. I’ve been waiting for you to point out the relevant threads. After all, it is you who has made the accusation. If you can’t do that, I’m going to assume such attacks do not exist. And I haven’t conceded that there are lessons to be learned, only that I will look for any lessons that can be learned in the threads you link to. There may be none.

    It is interesting that you harp on about my alleged attacks under anonymity, but here you are attacking me in a way I’ve never seen anyone being attacked before. And you are completely anonymous, and you even post under a different name at the JREF, and I’ll bet you’re not about to reveal that name. That’s very interesting isn’t it?

    As for that alternative medicine website, I spent a couple of months there perhaps two years ago. The website is full alternative health practitioners disseminating misinformation and lies. Yes, lies. There is no other word for it. Posters there do not like to be told the truth about their precious homeopathy and their rabid anti-vaccinationism. But it was me who was first attacked and I have this apparently unnatural tendency to stick up for myself. I can not remember any calls to have me banned from that site and certainly no pleading with the censor to have me banned (again a link would be apprecisted if you have one), but I would have worn that with pride, I assure you.

    As for being out of my depth at the JREF. Yes, I have often been out of my depth there and I have learned something new from every experience where I was shown to be wrong. I have been at the jref forum since its inception, and I owe a lot to other posters there who have pointed out my errors and providing appropriate links to further my understanding. Posters there with whom I’ve had heated debates have become friends.

    On this blog, there have been a three posters – who all turned out to be the same person who kept returning under a different name – who have not been honourable and I do not apologise for calling them on it. Again, its usually me who has been attacked and I have this irritating tendency to return fire.

    Finally I have not picked you as a target. You decided all by yourself that you were my target. That initial comment to you was, in no way, an attack on you. It was an invitation to clarify your point of view, or to discus it further if you were so inclined.

    “to prevent the other person from presenting the information they came to that forum to present. Preventing them from making a positive contribution to society, which most people feel is their duty and see these forums as affording an opportunity to do. ”

    But if that information can’t stand up to scrutiny, its not information that was worth presenting in the first place. Nobody ever understood what that three-in one-poster I mentioned before was saying, and he always responded with abuse when appeals were made for him to clarify his position, saying that we were not intelligent enough to understand the concept. He actually burst upon the scene disparaging our host for his ignorance about evolution and then presented what can only be regarded as a fringe view when we finally got past his obfuscations.

  247. Jeremiahon 29 May 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Ode to BillyJoe by BillyJoe7
    “I have a crush on one of my employees who works only one four-hour session per week. She charges my fantasy life and, through her, I can once again masturbate to orgasm.
    But I’m not so silly as to think I can make reality happen here. She is considerably younger and her other job brings her into contact with my wife – who got her this job. The pleasure she gives me by just being there once a week is enough. Anything more could end badly.
    
She is not a young woman. And nowhere did I state that she was. In fact she has two teenage children. In case you have made any more assumptions, she is not a buxom beauty, that is not why I am attracted to her. I love the way she smiles. I love the way she talks. I love the way she interacts with me. We are both married. We have some innocent fun and we leave it at that. And she doesn’t know about my fantasies about her and she never will.


    I have explained my relationship with my employee and my respect for her. And I am not ashamed of my fantasies. I like interacting with her at work, and I like my fantasies, and they are separate.
    Actually, to call her an employee doesn’t do justice to her role at work. She organises my whole day for me, in effect telling me what to do – which is what I employed her to do. If people were to complain about her (they haven’t), I would tell them there is no point complaining to me because she is the boss. ”

    **

    And now it seems not only are you are unashamed of publicizing your affair, you’re unashamed of using gratuitous insults for, as you’ve regarded it, a form of “scrutiny” which posters must be made to stand up to.
    The BillyJoe7 gauntlet method of intelligent examination? One that you can give but now it seems can’t take.

    I didn’t go through the archives here to research you because there’s no registration here, etc. But then there’s Google!
    And it appears from there you’ve scrutinized by insult as many or more different posters on this blog as you have at the other sites.

    And you plan to keep on doing it, don’t you. “And I haven’t conceded that there are lessons to be learned.” Haven’t conceded? That’s your defense? You’re not wrong in anything if you won’t concede you’re wrong?

    “in my neck of the woods, we call a spade a spade. No prudery here.” Was that your message to me or to your wife?

  248. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Jeremiah,

    I haven’t conceded that there are lessons to be learned because you haven’t provided the links that could show me whether or not there are lessons to be learned. Isn’t that clear enough? If you give me those links I will have a look to see if there are lessons to be learned about how I interact with other posters. Until then, I will continue to assume I am innocent of the charges you have made against me.

    And, yes, I will continue to present my views strongly, I will continue to demand evidence for the views others present, as I expect that they will demand of me. But I may reconsider my tendency to return fire with fire when others attack me. Maybe it’s just not worth it.

    When I said I call a spade a spade I was referring to why I used those words that seem to have offended some posters and that someone characterised as “too much information”. To me it was just a matter of fact description.

    And my purpose was not to “publicise” (as you put it) my “affair” (as you put it), but to respond by personal example to petrossas suggestion that emotion just gets in the way of human activity and that he considers autistism an advanced form of human being. My point was that he does not know what he is missing; and that we “normals” are capable of enjoying emotion whilst at the same time eliminating any negatives. My only regret is that my naive presentation of a personal example has lead to a great deal of assumption and misunderstanding on your part that led to you attacking me.

  249. Jeremiahon 29 May 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Here’s one example among many from Google:

    ># BillyJoe7on 14 Dec 2010 at 4:01 pm
    elmer mccurdy,
    You are an idiot.
    There, did you get the reaction you were after?
    Sneering caricature, my ass.
    Let us both look in the mirror and see if we come up roses.<

    There are a few hundred of these. How many more do you need?

  250. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2011 at 12:29 am

    Here is the sequence:

    ———————————-

    Steven Novella:
    “This is a view of science similar to those films created in the 1950s and meant to be watched by students, with the jaunty music playing in the background…”

    elmer mccurdy:
    “Love the sneering caricatures.”

    elmer mccurdy:
    “Seriously, I have learned from bitter experience that the sort of attitude displayed there and elsewhere on this blog is a cue to run, don’t walk, away from from the doctor in question.”

    BillyJoe7:
    elmer mccurdy,
    You are an idiot.
    There, did you get the reaction you were after?
    Sneering caricature, my ass.
    Let us both look in the mirror and see if we come up roses.

    ————————————

    I am defending our host, Steven Novella, and his blog against a gratuitous attack by Elmer McCurdy.

  251. Jeremiahon 30 May 2011 at 2:11 am

    Assuming Elmer was disagreeing with the host and not actually in agreement with the commentary which was against bad practitioners of science, it’s not a counter argument to call him an idiot and worse. Gratuitous means uncalled for, and your using personal insult in place of reasoned argument is truly the thing that’s uncalled for.
    Or is it your feeling that the host here needs defending and appreciates the insults you have offered to his readers for that purpose? Because this example is but one of many, and to justify it on the basis that it has somehow become your responsibility to be the insult dog here for the master is worse than the idiocy you seem to think you’re here to judge in others.

    And do you actually think your understanding of the dissenting commentary is at the same level as the host? Or perhaps that yours is better and he needs your help to do what he otherwise can’t do for himself?
    Your understanding of the nature of an autist, for example, led you to that “naive” example where you offer this excuse:
    “My point was that he does not know what he is missing; and that we “normals” are capable of enjoying emotion whilst at the same time eliminating any negatives.”
    So it’s normal to tell us that the reason you enjoy the fantasy (yeah, right) of sex with your employee is because, somewhat similar to the autist in question, you can’t enjoy the reality of sex with your wife, and worse than that, you can’t complete the act there where the autist can?
    “To me it was just a matter of fact description.” Of no consequence as well to those described.
    And so the host here, in your warped mind at least, relies on you for his defense? God knows what fantasies you play out with that.

  252. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2011 at 7:09 am

    It is remotely possible that I misunderstood but, if so, what alternative meaning can possibly be derived from the fact that he quoted Steven Novella, accused him of sneering, and then followed with this:

    “I have learned from bitter experience that the sort of attitude displayed there and elsewhere on this blog is a cue to run, don’t walk, away from from the doctor in question”

    If I did somehow misunderstand him, he was free to say so, explain what he meant, and give me a serve in the process. I would have been happy to apologise. I have done so in the past on the odd occasion that I misintertpreted a post. As it is, though, it looks like a driveby shooting to me.

    If he is one of your friends and you know he didn’t mean what it seems on the surface that he meant, I would be happy to hear from him. And, if apologies are in order I will have no hesitation in apologiseing.

    ————————-

    But you continue to wantonly mischaracterise my situation and now you are making further assumptions, implications, and accusations with respect to my employee, my wife and myself. You are just determined to believe whatever comes into your head to believe about my situation. I assure you, it is not remotely as you have described it. I think it is even possible that you are projecting. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

  253. Jeremiahon 30 May 2011 at 1:14 pm

    BillyJoe7′s standard disclaimer for the future, retroactively applying to Elmer and several hundred other idiots:
    “I am defending our host, Steven Novella, and his blog against a gratuitous attack by _______ (add name of idiot).
    If your attack was not gratuitous and you can prove it wasn’t, I will consider apologizing but don’t hold your breath, you idiot. Apologies are in order only if I say they are, and the chances of that happening are slim and none. In the meantime mind your manners and piss off.”

  254. Jeremiahon 30 May 2011 at 1:39 pm

    “But you continue to wantonly mischaracterise my situation –I think it is even possible that you are projecting.”

    Was that Freudian or what?

  255. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I think I have you pegged. Right?

  256. Jeremiahon 30 May 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Wrong, it’s about your situation where “She charges my fantasy life and, through her, I can once again” metaphorically project and pegger.

  257. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Oh, you are having a joke now.
    Somehow I didn’t expect that.

  258. Jeremiahon 31 May 2011 at 12:16 am

    joke |jōk|
    noun
    • [in sing. ] informal a person or thing that is ridiculously inadequate

  259. BillyJoe7on 31 May 2011 at 6:28 am

    Hey Jeremiah, what’s the best way to ruin a joke?

  260. Jeremiahon 31 May 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Tell it to your pals at the Mooroolbark Lions Club?

  261. ccbowerson 31 May 2011 at 2:31 pm

    “…seem to have offended some posters and that someone characterised as “too much information”. To me it was just a matter of fact description.”

    Just to be clear, I did not object to your comment at all, but struck me as something I wouldn’t share in this setting. If only for the far fetched possibility that someone, in a disagreement, could unfairly use such information against me. One of his earlier lines was pretty funny, but now seems a mean spirited beating of a dead horse.

  262. Jeremiahon 31 May 2011 at 3:38 pm

    So ccbowers did not object to the masturbation comment at all, except if it had been her, she wouldn’t have shared it with the public. But not that there was anything wrong with it.
    Since of course his wife does not read this blog even though he mentions her and his home town repeatedly. Favorably for the most part except for just this once.
    And speaking of beating a dead horse, who is it but Ms. Bowers that, whenever the thread is about to die, can’t help but to add some otherwise irrelevant commentary to revive it.

  263. BillyJoe7on 31 May 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I never mentioned my home town till you went on a hunting expedition and found out and mentioned it here first. I will add that I find nothing intrinsically wrong with the comment I made, but I would not do so again as a personal reference now that I know that there are individuals lurking on blogs like this who take great delight in running with it.

    It is a pity you didn’t let this thread die with ccbowers post which ended with the words “dead horse”

  264. Jeremiahon 31 May 2011 at 6:01 pm

    “The floods are in the north-east (Queensland) and we live in south-east (Victoria) so we are quite safe, thanks. In any case, the entire adjoining township of Lilydale would have to be submerged before we in Mooroolbark would see any effect.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/bems-psi-research/

  265. nybgruson 31 May 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I’m not quite sure if there are the appropriate or even enough pejoratives to describe Jeremiah at this point. I’ll leave it at that.

    BillyJoe – I concur that I find nothing wrong with your comment except that it was a stupid move to put it out on the web since it opened you to such attacks. I learned that sort of thing the hard way myself.

    CCBowers is spot on – you are both idiots for not leaving a dead horse to rot.

    Billy – if you find yourself in the Brizzy CBD area in the next 6 months, shoot me a message. I’ll shout you a jug and we can discuss interesting topics without the fear of an inane [insert pejorative] sycophant (in the original Greek sense of the word, of course) being in our midst.

  266. Jeremiahon 31 May 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Ooh, now comes the little boy nybgrus who couldn’t handle his betters in a rational form of argument and similarly resorted to a faux emotional breakdown in response to first Mike and then to me. Smelled that ol’ dead horse, but not so much to beat on as to ride on. Off on a fool’s errand as usual. Looking for his like to commiserate with. The traditional circle jerk perhaps at Brizzy CBD?
    So shoot him a message, BillyJoe. If you hurry you can make the Brisbane Fair Day on June 14th.
    But then of course he’ll be another that knows how to find you when you inevitably turn on him and he on you.

  267. nybgruson 31 May 2011 at 7:58 pm

    kind of sad really. I’m sorry for you Jeremiah, the same way I am sorry for people that road-rage.

  268. Jeremiahon 31 May 2011 at 8:29 pm

    “CCBowers is spot on – you are both idiots for not leaving a dead horse to rot.”
    And that made little nybgrus rise up and throw, not quite a rage, but none the less a hissy fit.

  269. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2011 at 6:59 am

    nybgrus,

    “CCBowers is spot on – you are both idiots for not leaving a dead horse to rot.”

    I’m beginning to think you are both correct.
    However, the only reason I’ve been responding to Jeremiah’s constant mischaracterisations of what I’ve said is to set the record straight.

    Thanks, both of you, for your (partial) support though. :)

  270. Jeremiahon 01 Jun 2011 at 12:15 pm

    BillyJoe7 for the Mooroolbark record:

    Interestingly, my wife was in the process of leaving me six years ago. She’d seen a solicitor and had picked out alternative accommodation for herself and the kids. But we are still together and my life has changed dramatically. But you will never guess why she was leaving? She felt emotionally isolated (I’d become too wrapped up in my work).

    I have a crush on one of my employees who works only one four-hour session per week. She charges my fantasy life and, through her, I can once again masturbate to orgasm. But I’m not so silly as to think I can make reality happen here. She is considerably younger and her other job brings her into contact with my wife – who got her this job. The pleasure she gives me by just being there once a week is enough. Anything more could end badly.

  271. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2011 at 5:32 pm

    As my final comment, let me just say that you are the most obnoxious poster I have ever had the displeasure to meet on an internet forum. You have not taken any time to understand my situation. I have been open and honest about the situation I find myself in today. I have not deliberately chosen it. It has just happened. I cannot help the emotions that well up inside me unexpectedly. I’m trying my best to make it work for everyone in my life and especially not to cause harm to any of them. My error was to expose myself to disparaging comments that completely misunderstand my situation by dispicable characters like yourself. You seem to have become obssessed with gathering together all the information about me that you can find, pulling them out of context in the process. I suggest you drop this now and get yourself a life. You’ve got no business living mine.

  272. nybgruson 01 Jun 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I thought I was done, but Jeremiah has proven to be so disgusting and despicable that I simply couldn’t hold my tongue (er, keyboard as it were).

    You seem to have found yourself a personal vendetta – one that is none of your business whatsoever. You attempt to cloak yourself in some high and mighty argumentation and take every chance you can to denounce others for whatever you can find. With me, it was only my argumentation style and then ultimately trying to claim I was just shy of throwing a “rage” but was just tossing a childish hissy fit. Quite frankly I could care less – it is a pathetic attempt at… I don’t know what. Perhaps boosting your own ego or something. Go right ahead and have all the boost you want. You are the smartest, clearest thinking, best arguer/debator I have ever encountered. Hands down. But you are still a slimy despicable sod for making some sort of personal vendetta to try and expose specific real world details that are absolutely none of your concern. It is one thing to pick apart an argument or claim someone is stupid for something said. It is entirely another to do what you have been doing – that is purely vindictive and base. At least I know of two individuals whom I will never engage online again.

    BillyJoe – no need to comment further, I’d be quite happy letting this thread die. Of course Jeremiah will insist on having the last word, since his ego prevents him from doing otherwise (so please, go right ahead as I have no doubt the content of it will further prove your [lack of] moral fiber). However, I learned a lesson a while ago that I reckon you are learning now – never put something online you wouldn’t be willing to say to your mother/grandmother/wife in person. Because you never know when some cretin will snap it up.

    TTFN

  273. Jeremiahon 01 Jun 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Your error, BillyJoe7, was to gratuitously insult all and sundry who you disagreed with on this and at least three other forums, and expect that your anonymity would protect you from the usual consequences. A pretense of honesty and credibility was your only source of authority, and you continue with that pretense in the face of the disrespect and dishonor your commentary here has shown to your wife and family.
    Your pretense of openness and honesty is no more than an attempt to mitigate the damages by this further pretense that you haven’t risked harming them at all, neither by your secret sexual longings for your “employee” nor again by exposing those secrets to the world.
    You’re a forum parasite that sucks energy from some unwitting host by insulting others to that host’s apparent benefit. Look how you manipulated nybgrus here to do your bidding. And he’s still none the wiser.
    But hopefully others in your future will be. Put wise, that is.

  274. rodilleron 12 Aug 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Discussion is good right? :) In an interview with Diane Sawyer last June, Hawking noted that “there is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason” therefore, for discussion sake, let’s rely on observations and reason rather than authority.

    Stephen Hawking simply stated that GOD was unnecessary for the Universe to come into existence, he did not say that GOD did not exist. He also stated, ‘A belief’ that heaven or an afterlife awaiting us, is a ‘fairy story’ for people who (in some interviews, he states, ‘who are afraid of the dark’ in other interviews he says ‘who are afraid of death’). http://content.usatoday.co​m/communities/ondeadline/p​ost/2011/05/cosmologist-st​ephen-hawking-rejects-heav​en-or-afterlife-as-a-fairy​-story/1 I wonder why he would want to ridicule those who differ from him, and make fait accompli announcements that he cannot possibly prove or disprove? Very shocking indeed, and all of it coming from a scientist who supposedly is relying on observation and reason, not authority! I cannot imagine why he would so strongly diverge from the standard scientific methods of observation and reason? It is very odd for a scientist of his stature in the scientific community, to ‘speculate’ about things that do not lend themselves to being tested or measured. Testing and measurement is the ‘Holy Grail of Science’. Although, it is inconceivable to imagine his type of theoretical Universe, I would not accuse him of believing in fairy’s either. I believe Mr. Hawking is a bright physicist, but only when he adheres to empirical findings which are, as he states, ‘based on observation and reason’. I am really not interested in his speculations or his pronouncements concerning an afterlife, he has no scientific proof, yea, nay or otherwise. In association with his strange statements, he seems to be attempting to convert himself into his own brand of the faithful with him being the final authority.

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